This weekend our church hosted a Sportsman’s Dinner where we drew over 400 people to listen to hunting industry star Jason Cruise talk about life, hunting, and God’s love for us. With him returning on Sunday to speak during worship services, the whole weekend was a bit of a sportsman’s paradise. The church was decked out in antlers and camouflage, there was a significant increase in the amount of blaze orange in the service and everything had a bit of a manly flare to it. Surely this was church as it is meant to be! Maybe that’s a bit of a stretch, but it certainly struck a chord with many outdoorsmen.
As I sat in church, thoroughly enjoying myself, I was struck by the troubling thought that despite my appreciation of all things manly and redneck-ish, I am a fraud as a wild-game hunter. Don’t get me wrong – I love the outdoors. I dress in boots, jeans, and flannel shirts and I grow a hunting beard every winter. I wear Duck Commander gear and my favorite places to shop are Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops. I carry a camo pocket knife and own multiple guns. I speak fluent redneck and can even understand Uncle Si from Duck Dynasty without the captions. I read books about guns and enjoy a variety of hunting and outdoor blogs and magazines. I even have some (old) hunting stories in which the big one got away (barely).
Yet when it comes to being a hunter, I am a fraud- a phony. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that I’m a “wannabe”. I think of myself as a hunter and an outdoorsman. I like that association, and would probably hunt if I had the occasion. But I have to confess, wild animals are not trembling at the sound of my name. All of my outdoorsman ambitions have resulted in zero impact on any critter. In fact, I haven’t shot a living thing since I shot that bull in the rear end with a pellet gun when I was 12.
I offer you this elaborate confession in the hopes that you can see the obvious parallel that I came to see. Worse than a phony hunter is a phony “wannabe” Christian. You know what I’m talking about. I’m not talking about Christians that mess up and sin. That’s just real life and we deal with it and move on. I’m talking about those people that call themselves Christians, but don’t really understand what it means to be a follower of Jesus. They spend a lot of time at church. They hang out with other Christians and are fluent in Christianese. They dress the “right” way and probably wear the best Christian gear and carry the biggest Bible. In fact, they have a variety of Bibles and even have a pocket version they carry everywhere they go. They read the greatest Christian books and Bible studies and listen to all the best preachers. They have incredible stories about “that one time” I told somebody about Jesus. Yet when it comes to being a genuine follower of Jesus, they’re a fraud.
There not a fraud because they do all of those things. In fact many of those things are great. However, they’re a fraud because that’s where it ends. Just as I never actually go out and hunt, they never leave the church building and do anything to make a difference in this lost and dying world. They have an enormous amount of knowledge and can certainly pass for a Christian, but all of their efforts at looking the part make zero impact on the world around them.
Jesus assumed that his followers would make a difference. He knew nothing of a passive faith that affected only the believer. He told his disciples to “go into all the world”, not “stay in all the churches.” In the grand scheme of things, being a fraud of a hunter doesn’t make much difference at all, but being a fraud of a Christian could make an eternal one. It is not my place to judge anyone’s profession of faith in Christ, but we are told that we will recognize both true believers and counterfeits by their fruits. I know that there is the possibility that one might truly be saved without living the life, but that is not the norm. The normal expectation for the true believer is that we will passionately follow Christ in all that we do. We will love and forgive. We will proclaim and live the gospel. We will leave the comfort of our safe little church buildings and we will minister to the least of these. That’s what the normal Christian life should be and I challenge you today to consider your own life. Are you a genuine follower of Christ or just a “wannabe”?