Do the people around you know if you follow Christ? If you own a business do your employees, their families, your customers, your distributors, your vendors, your competitors all know that you follow Christ? If you are an employee do your co-workers know you follow Christ? If you are a teacher do your students know you follow Christ?
In recent years George Barna has released results from a number of studies that show incongruities among American Christians based on their activities and their expressed beliefs in a number of areas. Bible reading, volunteerism and attendance are all down. The percentage of adults considering themselves unchurched is going up, but so is the percentage who considers themselves born again Christians. Inconsistencies appear when you read how many people have accurate beliefs about who God is, who Jesus is, who the Holy Spirit is, who Satan is, and the Bible’s accuracy. Here are links to the studies:
In addition to this research, I’ve recently read a number of books that support the results reported and talk about the reasons for these results. (Radical, David Platt; Counterfeit Gods, Tim Keller; Building a Discipling Culture, Mike Breen; Forgotten God, Francis Chan).
As you can imagine, the role of the church is discussed. There is certainly room for improvement in our churches, but they don’t deserve 100% of the blame. After all, they are just as imperfect as the rest of us. My point here is that the church is made up of Christ followers who need to be faithful in their journey in order to affect the other Christ followers around us and more importantly those confused or oblivious who are not following Christ. If each of us would fully embrace what it is to follow Christ, then others will want to do that as well.
So how do we know what a Christ follower looks like and acts like? You have to start with the Bible. If you want to know who God is, if you want to know who Christ is, if you want to know who the Holy Spirit is, if you want to know what your purpose is, you need to read the Bible. Not just parts of it, not just once, but every word, multiple times, continuously throughout your life. At first it may be difficult, and at times it may seem like something on your to-do list, but many times it will be rewarding and you will start to understand God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and your purpose. Greg Laurie does a better job than me describing the user’s manual for life in this piece Hidden Treasure.
In addition to reading the Bible on our own, we need to learn from those who have been reading and studying it before us. That is what the Sunday morning sermons are for, as well as getting into a small group of others studying together, discussing and sharing. Ideally, the group should be small, 4 to 6 of the same sex, led by someone whose life shows evidence of being a Christ follower. The guidelines of having small group of same sex promote honesty and openness.
If you are reading and studying and spending time with other Christ followers then you will learn how to follow Christ in everything. You will learn how to pray, you will develop a desire to help others through volunteering and giving financially, you will overcome negative lifestyle habits, you will be more compassionate and thoughtful, you will desire to worship with other Christ followers, and you will share all of this with others. People around you will see a difference, hear a difference and know the difference is Christ. Learning these things in this way is called discipleship and this is what Jesus told us to do in Matthew 28: 18Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
This has been my journey since I started following Christ in 1994 at the age of 34, so I am speaking from practical experience. I have read the entire Bible multiple times and continue to read as part of my daily life, I worship with others on Sunday and hear Bible based teaching, and I spend time with other guys studying, discussing, praying and sharing life. I have tried to serve others by sharing my time and finances, personally and in business. I am trying to be a 24/7 Christ follower. One thing that I have learned is that here in the United States there are a lot of distractions, a lot of “noise” in our lives that interfere with us pursuing and finding God. In reality, that should not be a challenge to overcome, considering the price other Christians have paid and continue to pay simply for refusing to recant their faith. Millions have been martyred for their faith over the centuries, and thousands continue to be martyred each year. These are people who were killed just because they were Christ followers and people around them knew it. (Persecution.com). If millions have made a choice that they are willing to die for don’t you think it’s a choice we should consider making and living out in a land where we still have the freedom to do so?