fan or follower?

kathyescobar church stuff, healing, spiritual formation 14 Comments

well here we are, holy week.  on wednesday at the refuge we are having our 2nd annual seder dinner together & friday is a simple good friday gathering.  saturday eve at the refuge will be easter refuge-style with an egg hunt afterward for all the kiddos.  i really do love our beautiful little community.

just to top off a weird last week, i have been layed up on the couch since friday with intense back pain.  no idea where it came from, but it hit hard and i have basically been paralyzed for the past 4 days!  i rallied sunday because karl and i were teaching at a church here in denver–4 services.   kind of wild when i have become so accustomed to simple & unplugged, but we always like to take a bit of the refuge DNA into other places, tell a bit of our story, and model team teaching that is so rarely practiced.    we really do have a lot of fun.  it was different, though, to not have the interaction we are used to in our community, where people interact in the larger group & with each other as part of the experience. we have become so spoiled!  if for some reason you like to listen to stuff online, you can hear it here.   since it was palm sunday and the church’s series for this week & easter was” down but not out, the road to recovery”, we decided to elaborate on the “fan or follower” thought that i shared a couple of weeks ago.

it seems that palm sunday sort of represents the Jesus fan mentality.  the excitement of Jesus arriving, the promised messiah that was going to stick it to the romans.  the rah-rah, the “i want to get on this team” fervor.  then, just a few days later the tides would clearly shift and the fans would fall away, disappointed at the lack of ascent and strength they were hoping for.  and what would remain is a beginning remnant of followers who were crazy enough to follow Jesus’ downward descent & enter a life of humility, gratitude, and hope in the midst of many unknowns.

i think it’s pretty easy to be a Jesus fan.  i think it’s something totally different altogether to be a Jesus follower. when it comes to the road to healing/life change/transformation, both individually & corporately, i think it’s important to consider the differences between a fan and a follower.   here’s are some highlights of what we shared, specifically as it related to healing  & church.  i am sure you can think of many more!

fans watch & followers walk. karl shared how interesting it is that on the weekend thousands of men in desperate need of exercise spend sunday afternoons watching 22 men in desperate need of rest. think about how churches on the whole have become about watching.   it’s so much easier to watch than actually have to participate.   i think pride has a lot to do with the watch mentality.  entering in and participating requires humility. it requires exposing ourselves and sharing our hearts, our gifts, our strengths, our weaknesses.  it’s much easier to sneak in and sneak out, pass out a program here and there and call it a day than actually enter into deep and meaningful relationship with other people. oh and yeah, it requires churches to stop feeding the “watch” monster and becoming willing to lose money, people, and all kinds of other fan-type things with it.

fans try to fit in and followers try to be honest. fans like to congregate with other people who look, think, and act like them.  most of us have a whole life below the surface; a little like an iceberg.  the part that is “seen” is the part that we identify with people. it leads us to believe that people have their sh*t together a lot more than they actually do!  real life is huge and below the surface.  and usually pretty complicated no matter how big or small the story may seem. followers are willing to lower their water line and let more of their real life out on the surface instead of protecting what can be seen.   a lot of people will talk about the refuge being filled with so much pain.  although it might seem more than average, i honestly believe that there is no more pain in the refuge than there is in almost any group of people; it’s just that the water line is very low here, and people are just painfully honest about their struggles, fears, doubts, insecurities, and pain.

fans look for inspiration, followers seek healing. i have said it before here, but i always like to say it again, AA is the largest underground church in the world.  and it’s also the most stripped down, scaled down, raw and unpolished gig in town. usually it’s just a stark room with some metal folding chairs and people’s real stories.  and a great model for us to consider–how truly life-changing equally sharing one another’s experience, strength, and hope really can be.   no fabulously strong leader, no amazing preaching or slick gimmicks, just a place to be honest and loved and challenged on the journey.  i always like this metaphor karl has:  pornography is to intimacy what church inspiration addiction is to community.   like pornography, inspiration addiction fires all the neurons & connections that makes us feel good & somehow connected.  but it is a false intimacy, a false connection, and will keep us safely protected from true community.

fans find congregations, followers find communities. yeah, i really believe this.  true community is the hardest thing i have ever done.  hanging out at church week after week requires nothing of us, really.   but being part of a real community, with all of our strengths, all of our weaknesses, all of our joys, all of our fears, all our dreams, all our doubts, now that is another thing all together.

so much has shifted over the years on my weird journey from rah-rah Jesus fan to learning-more-of-what-it-might-mean-to-actually-be-a-follower-and-it-definitely-hurts-more-than-i-thought.  but while it’s hard, at the same time i believe it’s powerfully freeing, wonderfully healing.  maturing the enthusiasm of the fan into the dedication of the follower and learning that continuing with Jesus after the easy team spirit of palm sunday calls us to get with the real in ways we might have never done before.

thinking about easter this week and wrapping christine sine’s lenten guide a journey into wholeness, i so love how new life comes forth out of the funkiest, wildest crazy downward descent story.  i really enjoyed the time and space on sunday to focus on this upcoming week and what it means for me, for us.  we ended with a reminder of how truly upside down the ways of Jesus really are in light of our human tendency toward fan-ness instead of follower-ness.  here is the guiding text for followers of Jesus and a template for the 12 steps from matthew 5:

blessed are the poor in spirit,  for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.
blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

what have some of your shifts from Jesus fan to Jesus follower looked like? how has it been good? how has it been hard?  what have you been learning about healing & community & the wild ways of Jesus?