Book Review of... "not a fan"
Not a Fan is a call to become a completely committed follower of Jesus. It is hardly alone in this category, this subgenre of Christian living or spiritual growth. Idleman’s unique angle is in focusing on the distinction between fans and followers. He looks at the Evangelical landscape and sees that there are many people who are mere hangers-on, mere enthusiasts for Jesus. “It may seem that there are many followers of Jesus, but if they were honestly to define the relationship they have with him I am not sure it would be accurate to describe them as followers. It seems to me that there is a more suitable word to describe them. They are not followers of Jesus. They are fans of Jesus.” In these circles Jesus is almost indistinguishable from a celebrity with committed fans “who know all about him, but they don’t know him.”
Idleman wants more than this. He wants more than this for himself, for you, for me.
He shares many good insights into contemporary Evangelicalism. “My concern is that many of our churches in America have gone from being sanctuaries to becoming stadiums. And every week all the fans come to the stadium where they cheer for Jesus but have no interest in truly following him. The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians but aren’t actually interested in following Christ. They want to be close enough to Jesus to get all the benefits, but not so close that it requires anything from them.” There is no doubt that this is true. He pushes back against easy-believism, against the kind of seeker friendliness that is all promise with no commitment. “Following by definition requires more than mental assent, it calls for movement. One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of ‘believe’ from the message ‘follow’.” Again, this is very true, and refreshing to hear from a pastor who leads one of the most mega of America’s megachurches; his Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky, is the 5th largest church in America with over 20,000 in attendance each weekend.
He calls on those who profess faith in Christ to diagnose the nature of their relationship by asking these questions:
- Have you made a decision for Jesus or have you committed to Jesus?
- Do you just know about Jesus, or do you really know him?
- Is Jesus one of many or is he your one and only?
- Are you more focused on the outside than the inside?
- Are you a self-empowered fan or a Spirit-filled follower?
These are helpful questions that can lead to an accurate diagnosis. There are far too many church-goers who love only what Jesus does for them or how Jesus makes them feel. The follower-fan distinction is a helpful way of understanding the difference and provides a clear call to a clear commitment.
Not a Fan bears a clear resemblance to two other recent bestsellers: David Platt’s Radical and Francis Chan’s Crazy Love. Like these books, Not a Fan identifies our tendency toward complacency. Interestingly, it may also have anticipated their follow-ups: Follow Me and Multiply, books that look to the command to be a follower. These are popular and important themes in the church today, and for good reason.