Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Are you a "Christian" or "Jesus-Follower"?

Rick Meigs at Blind Beggar picks up the issue of labelling and, in particular, the way we label ourselves.

The argument goes something like this:

"Christian" is a biblical label, therefore we should call ourselves Christians. But, "Christian", at least in some circles - and certainly outside the bastion of the western world, in Asia, Middle East, China etc. - can and does have negative feelings attached to it. So how do we get around this and should we even be trying?
Rick had this to say:
From shortly after the Creation when Adam gave names to all the animals to the present time, humans like to label stuff. It helps us to put things in boxes we can understanding. Non-believers and believers in the years after the resurrection and during the expansion were no different. They needed a label for these disciples of Jesus. We find two that were coined mentioned in Acts: “The Way” and “Christian.” In fact, “The Way” is more common (Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, and Acts 24:22). So, is “Christian” a biblical term? It is in the sense that its in the Bible as a man made label, but it is not biblical in the sense that we have been commanded in the scripture to use it as our identifier.

We should be sensitive and careful in the use of any term that create even more barriers to communicating the gospel which is already a stumbling block to many. Next time you are in dialog with a not-yet-Christian, try Jesus Follower instead of Christian and see what the reaction is.
You can read the whole of Rick's post HERE and he also links to another discussion taking place elsewhere.

Which do you prefer and why?


Helen said...

I like that "follower of Jesus" puts a definite emphasis on what people do.

I feel justified in calling myself a "follower of Jesus" because I do try to do at least some of what he did. But I can't call myself a Christian (unless I call myself a very 'non-traditional' one).

namd3r said...

I would feel weird calling myself a Jesus-follower to other people. Probably because I'm a teen and always worried about what others think of what I say and how I act. I'm sure that if I was older, I would choose to call myself a Jesus-follower rather than a Christian, but for now, I just call myself a Christian.

The Creature said...

Personally, I'll use either. I started using "Follower of Jesus" a while back when talking to people who have either been burnt by the "church" or have had no exposure at all to Christianity. Follower of Jesus specifically describes who I am (or at least who I try to be).

But, I often still refer to myself as a Christian as well. I think there is room for both.

Helen - I think Australia's religio-social environment is very different to the US. It is my impression that Christianity, in one way or another, is very dominant and public in the States. It isn't that way here (for an e.g. have a look at "Are we Really Reaching our Community" for a look at a brief video I made with everyday Aussies). We are almost working with blank slates here in Oz when it comes to Christianity and peoples understanding of it. I actually think this is great. It means people are actually very open to talk about spiritual things.

Thanks namd3r for your comments. I think it is easy to worry about what other people think at just about every stage of life. I even do it at 34.

Bless you.