Ten years ago, Zondervan published a book called Not a Fan, by Kyle Idleman. While I haven’t read it (I know, shock and horror), I heard several talks and sermons about it when it came out. Here’s the summary from Amazon:
Are you a follower of Jesus? Don’t answer too quickly. In fact, you may want to read this book before you answer at all. Consider it a “Define the Relationship” conversation to determine exactly where you stand. You may indeed be a passionate, fully devoted follower of Jesus. Or, you may be just a fan who admires Jesus but isn’t ready to let him cramp your style. Then again, maybe you’re not into Jesus, period. In any case, don’t take the question—Are you a follower of Jesus?—lightly. Some people don’t know what they’ve said yes to and other people don’t realize what they’ve said no to, says Pastor Kyle Idleman. But Jesus is ready to clearly define the relationship he wants with his followers. Not a Fan calls you to consider the demands and rewards of being a true disciple. With frankness sprinkled with humor, Idleman invites you to live the way Jesus lived, love the way he loved, pray the way he prayed, and never give up living for the One who gave his all for you.smile.amazon.com
Sunday morning, Jurie talked about our citizenship in God’s Kingdom, and he gave us an analogy. We talk about “getting saved” as though the purpose of knowing of Jesus is just getting us to Heaven, while it’s supposed to be about bringing Heaven to earth. Jurie asked, “Have you moved into the zoo?” The zoo is a place that looks like the habitat you were born to live in, but it’s not the real thing. It’s just a dim replica of the fullness of life in the wild (i.e., the presence of God). “We are living on earth because we’re agents of the Heavenlies on this planet.”
The characterization of a “fan” in Idleman’s book is that of one who stands on the sidelines, admiring the object of the fandom and cheering that object on. Yet as my daughter (call her E) has grown into teenager-hood, I’ve observed some interesting things about modern fandom. When I was growing up, we liked the things we liked. We watched our TV shows and movies, listened to our music, read our books. We would talk with one another about these things, maybe dress up like characters for Halloween or buy some swag at Hot Topic. We didn’t have social media back then, so memes weren’t a thing, but the vocabulary of our favorite shows did make it into our daily dialog.
Now, though, fandom is a way of life. If you’re a true “Potterhead” (a fan of Harry Potter, for you Muggles out there), you know what house you’re in, you have a whole wardrobe (including wizarding robes) in your house colors, and you know the lore and characters better than J.K. Rowling herself. You ask everyone you meet, “What’s your Hogwarts house? Do you know your Ilvermorny house too? I’m a Ravenclaw and a Horned Serpent.”
Earlier this year, E discovered a cosmic horror/fantasy podcast that is one of the most fascinating and well-written works of fiction I’ve ever encountered. But at the beginning, she just said, “I heard about this podcast and I think you’d like it.” So I listened to it… all 200 episodes of it. And we now have a coffee mug, T-shirt, and pin with artwork about the show. And E has told a dozen or more friends and family about it, focused her artwork for her art class on it, created embroidery patterns and made patches based on it… it’s part of our way of talking now. Before that podcast, she was deep into a webcomic– and she has six cosplay wigs to prove it.
Modern fandom isn’t a “sit on the sidelines” thing anymore; it’s a way of life. It changes your worldview, the way you dress, the way you talk, what you’re excited to share with people. Lately, I keep thinking, “Not a Fan,” but also “BE A FANDOM!”
Contemplating the ideas of living “out of the zoo” and “being a fan (or not),” I keep thinking about my lifestyle. I once had a friend who said he’d never put a Christian bumper sticker or “Jesus fish” on his car; that way if he did something a bad driver would do (inadvertently, of course), the people who witnessed the bad driving wouldn’t think, “Those Christians… they think they’re so nice… but look how rude that guy is! Hypocrites.” Being a relatively judgmental 20-something, I thought, “Well, maybe having a Christian bumper sticker would make you a better driver then.”
Politics and religion are two things that many of us consider taboo in polite conversation. We want to get along with our colleagues and family, so we keep our conversations to things like “what’s for dinner?” or “by when do you need that report?” or “what strange weather we’re having!” Some of us avoid wearing Christian symbols or shirts, and we don’t mention church when people ask what we did over the weekend. We certainly don’t get so excited about Sunday’s sermon that we share the link with everyone we know. It’s impolite, somehow, to be who we are. In a time when celebrating diversity is the order of the day, our own uniqueness as followers of Jesus is taboo.
Sunday morning, Jurie called us to “live in the wild” and “get out of the zoo.” Kyle Idleman called us to be Not a Fan of Jesus, but to be true followers with deep relationships with Jesus. I agree with all of that. Today, I’m also calling us to be a fandom. Wear the shirt, tell the story, share the link, dress the part, “sqeeeee!” when a new weekly episode (sermon) comes out, memorize the lore, write the fan fic, draw the fanart, donate to the cause, and above all, share the good news. Represent! Don’t be a fan on the sidelines – be a fandom… in the wild. Allow God to elevate your perspective and change everything for you, so much so that it just bubbles out of you wherever you go.
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