“Would the people who know you best consider you a Christian or a follower of Jesus?”
I still remember the stunned look on Dave’s face when I asked him the question over breakfast ten years ago. To give him a chance to recover a bit, I took the time to clarify my question. “What I mean Dave is this: based on how you live and what you’re passionate about, would your wife, your children, co-workers and fishing buddies – would they consider you a Christian or a serious follower of Jesus? And by the way, you don’t have to answer that question to me today. I’m not your spiritual authority. But, Jesus already knows the answer. The question is, do you?”
I’d known Dave for a few years, but not well. He was forty something, husband and father of three, attended a conservative church in town, and was involved in a men’s Bible study – a typical Christian. Our kids went to school together and we’d talked a number of times at school functions, but not in depth.
His reason for wanting to meet that morning was to ask if I would spend some time with him to help figure out some moving parts in his life. His relationship with God was flat. The company he was working for was in turmoil. He and his wife were struggling. The usual mid-life stuff. I’ve mentored many men in our community, so it was no surprise that he would ask me to help him sort things out. But, obviously he hadn’t expected to be hit by this truck.
Dave’s first question after he’d regained his composure was, “What’s the difference between a Christian and a follower of Jesus?” A fair question, but I wanted to hear his answer first. So I asked him to take a crack at it.
“Well, when you put it that way, I would guess a Christian is someone who believes Jesus is the Son of God, died on the cross and all that. They believe the Bible is true, go to church regularly, try to live a good Christian life and volunteer in the church. I would think a follower of Jesus believes all the same stuff and does all the same things, but is a lot more excited and serious about actually living like Jesus in everyday life.”
Are both Christians and followers of Jesus saved?
“Not bad,” I told him with some admiration. Before I could say another word, he asked me this penetrating question with just a hint of fear in his voice. “Are both Christians and followers of Jesus, saved?” I told him the truth. “I don’t know with certainty. I don’t have a faith-o-meter, so I can’t possibly know who’s in, or who’s out. And Dave, there are followers of Jesus who behave badly more often than they’d like to admit, because you’re sitting across from one.”
With that, he grew quiet. I thought it best to leave him alone with his thoughts for a minute, so I went to the restroom. My reason for asking this question of Dave is that most of us intuitively know whether we are serious about following Jesus, or if we’ve been content with the average Christian life. This question simply forces an answer most of us don’t want to think about.
When I returned, I left him with this final thought. “Dave, if you’d like me to mentor you, at some point I will need to know your answer to this question and the reasons you think others believe that about you. It will help me understand better what you really need from me.”
Counting the Cost
When Dave drove away after breakfast, I knew what was racing through his mind. I could just tell. I’ve asked this question to thousands of people. He intuitively knew the answer to my question, but was scared to death to think too deeply of its implications. Dave was counting the cost. Many are. Perhaps you are right now.
So here’s my suggestion; at your next Bible Study, drop a bomb and ask my question of your group. Here are some other follow-up questions:
Do you think both Christians, as Dave defined it and followers of Jesus are saved?
Are there really two classes of born again people?
What do followers of Jesus have faith in, that Christians may not?
Practically, how does a person move from being just a Christian to a more serious follower of Jesus?
If you were advising a Christian how to become a more serious follower of Jesus, what would you tell them?
In my book, The 10 Second Rule, I make this statement:
“The power of the rule is that it inspires us to do in the short run, that which we’re not always certain we can sustain in the long run. It’s a plan to begin again the adventure of actually following Jesus, for those who’ve settled for beige Christianity.”
Following Jesus in Real Life