Fan or Follower?

I was an enthusiastic fan of my children’s sport! Most Saturday’s you would’ve found me cheering on the Ignite Scorpions or Surrey Park Panthers. I didn’t mind a little inconvenience; a wet, cold day at a suburban footy oval was not enough to turn me off; I’d take my turn to score and provide the lollies at netball; I’d pay my membership fees and buy my tickets for the meat tray raffle each week. I was a pretty committed fan, costing me time and money each week! However, I was not really interested in getting dirty, or injured, or having to put in extra time for training or other responsibilities. I was just happy being a fan – turning up once a week and doing my little bit. I was too busy for anything more, I had other priorities…

Kyle Idleman in his book, ‘Not a Fan’ suggests that the church is full of ‘Jesus fans’, but not enough followers! Too many people who are happy to be fans as long as it doesn’t cost them too much or take away from other things that are important to them. Too few people are willing to be followers. He writes, “A concern I have with our churches today is that when we gather together - I think there is the possibility that instead of a community of followers we are nothing more than a stadium full of fans. Where we may wear a cross, but we don’t bear the cross. You can come to church, know all the songs, open your Bible and take notes, walk out to your car with a Jesus fish on the bumper and say grace before lunch, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a follower.”

The Bible provides an interesting cameo of a man who moved from being a fan to a follower. In fact, at the beginning he was hardly even a fan! We first meet Nicodemus in John 3. He is one of the seventy-two men who serve on the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Ruling Council. He would have been a respected, wealthy and revered man, well known in his community. He would have known and heard about Jesus and what he was doing. And yet in verse 2, we find him sneaking off under the cover of darkness to meet Jesus. I get the impression from the limited narrative that he was probably intrigued by Jesus, perhaps begrudgingly admired him. But he knew that his reputation was at risk if he sought him out in daylight. He didn’t want this Jesus character to inconvenience him too much or disrupt his good life. And yet… there was something that drew him in as a reluctant fan!

In chapter 7, we find Nicodemus has moved closer to be being a follower. He speaks out aligning himself with the truth about who Jesus really is, protesting against the course of action his fellow religious leaders were taking against Christ. This probably cost him his job and reputation, and perhaps even his family and friends. Finally, in chapter 19, we find that Nicodemus is one of the friends that takes care of Jesus’ body after his crucifixion; wrapping it and anointing it with herbs and spices that he has provided.

Wow! What a transformation from reluctant fan to complete follower.

Our school mission statement is about providing learning experiences that challenge each student to actively live for God in His world. Can you do this only being a fan, or do you need to be a follower to do this really well? As a Christian school are we satisfied when our students are simply fans or do we hope and pray for more? How would you describe yourself – a fan or follower?

These are good questions to be reflecting on in a world that seems to encourage shallow and temporary attachments, rather than deep and committed relationships. These are also good questions as we look to farewell another cohort of Year 12s; are they leaving our school as fans or followers of Christ?

As a Christian school, seeking the Kingdom of God in all aspects of education, let us be committed to being a community of followers, rather than a stadium of fans!