“Christian” Vs “Christ Follower”

Allah at Hot Air has posted a series of videos from a contemporary church that is trying to distance itself from the term ‘christian.’ Go look; I’ll wait.
I really don’t get how the ‘cool dude’ calls himself a ‘Christ-follower’ while acting as if the Bible is not needed. While it’s easy to mock the bumpersticker WWJD crowd (and certainly there are many of them that seemingly drift perilously close to the Pharisee on the corner) we are, as Christians, called to spread the faith, so I can’t really fault folks who do as long as they are able to keep the focus on Christ and not their works/zeal. As Christians we shouldn’t do good acts to bring glory to ourselves, to hear the neighbors say “What a decent fellow Bingley is” (it gets rather embarassing when they keep saying that, let me tell you). No. Well, we shouldn’t really but of course at times we do because we are imperfect, fallen creatures. And that’s okay because we confess our sins and are aware of our failings and foibles…and we know that God is also aware of them, and makes us confront them with painful clarity. To look truthfully at yourself is hard, painful traumatic business, made all the moreso by the knowledge that someone else knows all your dirty laundry and calls you on it. There’s none of this “that’s ok” crap; and here’s where I think that ‘modern’ Jesus-Is-My-Bestest-Bud movements go astray: Jesus judges us, and judges us harshly. We are sinners. We do bad things. We do selfish things. We do evil things. And Jesus tells us so. And this causes shame…well deserved shame. And from what I’ve heard of contemporary christian music and preaching this part of it is de-emhasized, because shame and judgement are so passé, so damaging to the self-esteem. I mean, church is where you’re supposed to feel good, right? NO! Church is where you confront yourself honesty, where you go before the living God who sees you as you truly are, makes you face all of your flaws…and then when you know you least deserve it says “I forgive you.” And this Grace, freely given to those who should by all rights have no expectation of it causes a change, little by little, week by week, in how we act. As the saying goes we are reformed and ever reforming. We act out of thanksgiving for the Grace that God has given us, and since The Big Guy really has no need for any earthly gifts we could possibly give (well, except maybe a PS3; they’ve got to be hard to come by even there) we show our thanks by acting in ways that we hope would be pleasing to Him; we can not presume to always act in such a fashion, because we can’t, but we can conciously try. And occasionally we succeed.
My church is a moderately large traditional Presbyterian church in NJ, and we, like many churches, are struggling with how to attract new members. I’m simply not sure if the desire to ‘be contemporary for the kids’ that Tom Lehrer parodied so brilliantly in “The Vatican Rag” is the call of spiritual and communal growth or the call of the Sirens. We have a large traditional Sunday morning service, replete with full choir and organ, and we’ve added a more contemporary Saturday night service of the guitar-based variety and we’ll see how it goes. As I said above I guess what bothers me most about this whole contemporary movement is that it seems to be based on the idea that Christ is our ‘best buddy’ and that if you profess belief than everything is peachy and cool, when in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. Religion is hard, uneasy work. For you musicians out there it’s as if life was all major chords…when it’s really mostly minor. We’re trying to see if we can bridge that gap.
It’s sad that people who profess to follow Christ would want to separate themselves from the term ‘Christian’ and the Bible for political convenience, isn’t it?
And if you want to see the true secrets of my Presbyterian faith revealed, the commentator “CorinthianJest” at HotAir must have hacked into our secret Presbyterian database. The BlackHawk helicopters are on their way to his location as we speak…

8 Responses to ““Christian” Vs “Christ Follower””

  1. Mike Rentner says:

    The videos are moderately humorous and poke fun at bible thumpers whom we’ve all known, who like to carry their bibles around in public (they have to “testify”), put bible passages on their screen savers at work, and at the same time lie about and back stab fellow workers, to ensure that they themselves are the ones spared in the next layoffs. I remember one boss particularly who was a deacon so that he could control more people in his church, yet he lied daily to his boss about fundamental business situations to make himself look good. His mistakes directly led to near bankruptcy of the entire company, but he blamed everyone else while a Bible was in his hands. Blameless others, including myself, were laid off, but he remained.
    Most Christians aren’t like that, but there’s enough to make it worth poking fun at them. And they give other Christians a bad name. I think there is little to worry about, Bingley. Real Christians who take the message to heart don’t have any problems being recognized.

  2. I think you’re dead-on in your last paragraph there, Mike.
    And dead on in your first. When someone welcomes me with “this is a CHRISTIAN business” I am SO out of there, leaving just a smoking trail to mark my passage.

  3. Steve says:

    I’ve come to question some of the stuff that churches do to draw new members. In my new town, we live three blocks from a Methodist church. I was raised in the UMC but it has changed. The one I went to living in Denver had a very political minister, and this one is trying to be- well, the universal church of feel-good. They treat you like a child, and like it has to be fun all the time.
    I’m a sinner. I don’t need to be massaged and told “it’s ok”, because if it was ok, I wouldn’t be in church wanting to atone. I think that’s what you were saying??
    Going back to my parents’ church (that I grew up in), I nearly lost it laughing at the Christmas Eve sermon a few years ago when the pastor told her Christmas story about “waiting for santa” and did not ONCE mention Jesus Christ!?! It was one of many moments where I’ve wanted to stand up in church and interrupt and say “How does this fit into anything having to do with scripture or following Christ?”
    The contemporary movement to me is trying to change the church to make it relevant to society, rather than trying to change society to make it relevant to the church. When society doesn’t accept it, the church will have lost its way completely.
    Anyway, I’m kind of shopping around for a church. My wife’s catholic and I don’t agree with all the catholic doctrine, it puts a lot of bureaucracy between me and my “best buddy”. 🙂

  4. Mr. Bingley says:

    Hi Steve. My church is Presbyterian, with the unfortunate moniker of PC-USA, and while sadly that describes the national leadership of the church our church is much more traditional. The scene you described would NOT happen at the First Presbyterian Church in Red Bank, I can assure you, and for that I’m thankful for both our pastor and the congregation.
    The contemporary movement to me is trying to change the church to make it relevant to society, rather than trying to change society to make it relevant to the church. When society doesn’t accept it, the church will have lost its way completely.
    I agree with your first statement completely. The second is, I fear, a minefield. If we believe in the universal and timeless nature of Christ’s message and call, well we have to be very very careful that as we modify and massage the package to make it more appealing to the changing society we don’t change the contents. It’s a fine and perilous line. That society has lost it’s way is and always has been and always will be a given; the best we can hope is to nudge it along in the right direction. There can not be a heaven on earth; it’s simply not possible with a fallen Man. We should not be concerned about society’s acceptance; I know you’re not implying this but it’s not a popularity contest, which is the path that it seems to me that some of these BestBud ministries are trodding.
    I’m a former catholic, so I know where you’re coming from; my solution was to marry a Prot!

  5. Nightfly says:

    I will NOT break out the soap box…
    I will NOT break out the soap box…
    I will NOT…
    But I have to agree with a lot of what everyone’s been saying here. The church offers the chance to be made new in Christ. Everything else that may happen afterward hinges on that one thing: that we can be forgiven and restored. Society itself should be transformed if all goes well. But making THAT the goal will always fail. The only thing is to send transformed men and women into the world. They will inevitably bring that change along with them, as Mike R. observed – you can always tell which ones they are, and that they’re not in it for the approval, or even for the service committees and community outreaches.

  6. Mr. Bingley says:

    Geesh, and here I go out and dust it off for you, ‘Fly.

  7. Did anyone but me notice they’re selling “Our Father…” and “He so loved the world…” NECKTIES at the Wal-Mart?
    Now I ASK you, Christian soldiers, WHAT is UP with THAT?

  8. Mr. Bingley says:

    “He so loved the world that he gave us his only begotten Yves St Laurent cravat”
    He is the generous and loving Big Guy™, after all.

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