It is interesting how both society and the church frequently come up with new “buzz words.” I try to use some of them, so as to connect with younger generations and be effective in communication. Quite often these new terms refer to things we have been doing or saying for years – but using different words.
For example, being “missional” in the evangelical world has become popular in recent years. It is sort of replacing terms like being “focus-driven” or missionary-minded – which replaced terms like evangelism or witness. I actually like the term “missional.” But many of us were already missional without using that term. We have taught for years that a Christian witness is not going to be effective – and people are not going to be interested in coming to hear the gospel at church, unless they see a (missional) Christian exhibiting the living Christ in daily life – and being an effective witness out in the “real” world.
Another newly popular term in evangelical circles now urges people to become a “Christ-follower” or a follower of Christ. That is certainly biblical. Jesus commanded the disciples to follow Him, as the disciples dropped everything and did so (Matthew 4:18-19). We should follow Christ, and we should urge others to become Christ-followers.
However, it is important to emphasize the supernatural miracle of the new birth which transforms a person – if they truly become Christ-followers. As Jesus commands us to follow Him, He also commands us to be reborn spiritually (John 3:3, 7). We do not want any misunderstanding on what it means to be a Christ-follower. In India, the Hindus worship some 330-million (yes, you read that right) gods. A Hindu would not hesitate to follow Christ – along with several other gods. Or he may become a “seeker” — following after the truths of Christ (but not yet convinced). We would want him to understand that a decision to follow Christ entails being transformed by receiving Christ by faith as our personal Savior – and following Him alone.
Certainly in a case like that of the Hindu who “adds” Christ to his other gods, such a person has not truly become a Christ-follower. But to prevent such confusion or misinterpretation, we should always emphasize the nature of the new birth in Christ – the wonder of being “born again” of the Spirit of God (Titus 3:5). Similarly, the person who chooses to “follow” after in seeking Christ — without making a definitive commitment — needs to understand the need for spiritual rebirth.
So, yes, I am a Christ-follower. But more than that, I am a new creature in Christ, transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit – and that regeneration is what empowers me effectively to follow Christ (II Corinthians 5:17).