Christian definitions used not to matter so much. People used to be Methodists or Lutherans, Episcopalians or Baptists. Each denomination had its own culture, its own jokes. A Congregationalist friend once defined himself to me this way: "We're the ones who fold up the chairs after church to make room for the basketball court."There is something great about a challenge like this - it causes us to concentrate on the core of who we are... versus the clothing.
Outsiders could—and did—make assumptions about their neighbors' personal habits and politics based on denomination. The United Church of Christ was left-wing. The Southern Baptists leaned to the right. Methodists, Episcopalians and Lutherans fell somewhere in between.Then, in the 1980s, as nondenominational churches became the fastest-growing segment of American Christianity, a number of Christians cast off their labels. But with this freedom came a challenge: what should this new generation call itself?
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:25-26)If you don't know geography, we have cultural Jews entering non-Jewish territory on purpose. In other words, the first time the word "Christian" is used is when a group of people were crossing bridges to pursue people on the other side... not create fences to feel "safe" and "right" in. Before that, Christians were known as followers of "the Way" - in other words, "Christ-followers."
Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord's disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. (Acts 9:1-2)Today, Jesus is asking the same thing of you and I - can we follow Him without knowing every detail of what that journey will entail? Can we truly be a "Christ-follower?" There is definitive promise in who we will become, and there is always His presence to guide us.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)
As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. "Come, follow me," Jesus said, "and I will make you fishers of men." At once they left their nets and followed him. (Matthew 4:18-20)
- Do you define your faith by who you don't want to be... or more by who Jesus has invited you to become?
- Re-read that invite Jesus makes to Simon-Peter and Andrew... if Jesus appeared in your life today in the midst of your activities, what would that look like? What would He say? And what would you leave behind to follow Him?
- Is your faith more of a noun... or more of a verb? It should be both, but which do you sense Jesus is your responsibility versus God's?