Kyle Idleman is the Teaching Pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky and he has written a popular book titled Not a Fan. Idleman, Kyle (2011-06-07). Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus Zondervan. Kindle Edition
His book attempts to distinguish between what is called a “fan” and what a believer really is. It should be no surprise to some that the author is using this book to set forth a strongly Lordship view of salvation. I have read the book and have included certain key quotes with my reaction.
I have found that these views are not limited to this one book but are a part of a growing mindset among people who claim to be Christians. I don’t offer my critique with any inclination to be harsh or mean spirited. I want the true gospel to be untainted and for God’s truth to be magnified. So, to take a stand for the faith, here are my observations and reactions.
Speaking of a “Fan”, Idleman says the following:
“There is no sacrifice he has to make. And the truth is, as excited as he seems, if the team he’s cheering for starts to let him down and has a few off seasons, his passion will wane pretty quickly. After several losing seasons you can expect him to jump off the fan wagon and begin cheering for some other team. He is an enthusiastic admirer.”(p. 24)
My Comments in blue:
(We must note here that Idleman’s definition of a fan is an “enthusiastic admirer” which just means basically an unbeliever. See, to Idleman, a believer must be a “true” follower. We should also remember that the unsaved person has no sacrifice to make in order to believe the gospel and be saved.)
Speaking of Nicodemus Idleman writes:
“In fact, his friends and family wouldn’t even have to know. He could talk to Jesus at night and quietly make a decision in his heart to believe in Jesus; that way it wouldn’t disrupt his comfortable and established life. That sounds like a lot of fans I know. Fans are happy to follow Jesus as long as that doesn’t require any significant changes or have negative implications.” (p. 30)
(Believing is the only way of salvation – that is, believing in Christ and His finished Work to save. Idleman insinuates that a believer must commit to certain changes in order for his faith to be true. In relation to Nicodemus, Idleman also seems to be mixing conversion with steps of obedience after conversion.)
“Jesus would not accept a relationship with Nicodemus where he simply believed; Jesus wanted Nicodemus to follow. Jesus didn’t just want Nicodemus just at night; he wanted Nicodemus during the day too.” (p. 31)
(Jesus wants all men to simply believe. That is how a man is born again. Becoming a committed follower is part of progressive sanctification. While it is possible that Jesus wanted Nicodemus to follow, it is not how Jesus told him how to be saved. John 3:16.)
“Biblical belief is more than mental assent or verbal acknowledgment. Many fans have repeated a prayer or raised their hand or walked forward at the end of a sermon and made a decision to believe, but there was never a commitment to follow. Jesus never offered such an option. He is looking for more than words of belief; he’s looking to see how those words are lived out in your life. When we decide to believe in Jesus without making a commitment to follow him, we become nothing more than fans.” (p. 32)
(Raising a hand during an invitation or repeating a prayer does not save but a person who has just trusted Christ alone for salvation may respond that way. We see this straw man argument used often by Lordship proponents. Where in the Bible does it say that salvation is not only by grace through faith? (Eph 2:8-9) Is not a “commitment to follow” a form of works? Yes, God does see how we are living our Christian lives but does not base our salvation on our progress. Idleman is basically saying here that faith is NOT enough! There must also, according to him, be a commitment to follow in discipleship. False.)
“One of the reasons our churches can become fan factories is that we have separated the message of “believe” from the message “follow.””(p. 32)
(Belief is NOT a “commitment to follow”. A belief in Christ alone for salvation based on the gospel is a change of mind from our own way of salvation to God’s only available way for us of salvation. Yes following does require movement, but our conversion does not. Eph 2:8-9)
“If you try and separate the message of follow from the message of believe, belief dies in the process. Our churches will continue to be full of fans until we break down the dichotomy between following and believing. Following is part of believing. To truly believe is to follow.” (p. 33)
(Belief is NOT dependent on following. I can’t stress that enough. One can actually be a believer but not necessarily a committed learner/follower. Likewise a person can be a “follower ” but not a believer. Many unsaved people try to follow Jesus. The sad thing is that they get so focused on the hype about following that they miss the first part about believing.)
“Maybe that’s your story. When you heard the gospel, someone talked at great length and passion about you making a decision to believe, but said little about the fact that this commitment would necessarily change the way you live. I call this “selling Jesus.””(p. 33)
(If you mean by “making a decision to believe”, making a decision to trust in Christ alone for salvation, then it was well worthwhile for someone to help talk with you at great length about that! It is absolutely NOT selling Jesus. It is rather proclaiming the good news of the gospel. There is NOTHING cheap about that! Once again, believing is not a commitment. It is not a promise of anything on our part. There is no merit that we can add.)
“They ordered a gospel that cost them nothing and offered them everything. So in case someone left it out or forgot to mention it when they explained what it meant to be a Christian, let me be clear: There is no forgiveness without repentance. There is no salvation without surrender. There is no life without death. There is no believing without committing.”(p. 35)
(This in a nutshell is the crux of the whole issue. Contributing anything to your salvation i.e. surrender, turning from sins, dying to self, making commitments, counting the cost of discipleship, etc. is to add to the condition of receiving salvation by grace through faith. Eternal salvation is only granted to those who believe with simple child like faith in Christ based on the gospel. (John 3:16) To misunderstand that the Gospel cost Christ dearly but us nothing is to totally misunderstand it altogether. That is exactly why the “lordship” gospel is so dangerous.)
“Like the Pharisees, many fans have given their minds to the study of God, but they never surrendered their hearts. These were men who had plenty of knowledge about God, but they didn’t really know God. This is what often separates the fans from the followers. It’s the difference between knowledge and intimacy.”(p. 42)
(You cannot surrender your heart as an unbeliever. You must believe first. Conversion is not a matter of heart surrender.)
“I’ve talked to people who put off following Jesus because they don’t want to hurt their parents’ feelings. I have had more than one person tell me that when their grandma dies they plan on becoming a Christian. They decide to wait because they don’t want to upset her.”(pp. 57-58)
(Why should we be surprised that an unsaved person would put off following Christ?)
“The relationship he wants with you requires your whole heart. And fans should know that his terms are not negotiable. So before you say, “I want to be a follower,” be sure you understand what it’s going to cost you.”(p. 65)
(Hold up… cost me? I didn’t shed one drop of blood for my salvation. I didn’t die on a cross after living a sinless life or rise again from the dead. Salvation is freely offered by the One – Christ – who purchased it! He doesn’t need my help to purchase salvation and He doesn’t need me to pay Him back! We do not owe a debt to God for our salvation. We do owe an eternal debt for our sin but can be freed from that on Christ’s merit. It is offered free and clear with no strings attached and no fine print. It is about receiving His precious gift by faith so that we can be born again as the Bible describes it. From that point on we have the capacity to either live in the Spirit or the flesh. Part of the Christian life is to learn to walk closely with God in the Spirit but it is a continual and lengthy process. We will never become perfect in that walk while here on earth. The flesh and the old man do not just go away. They must be crucified daily so to speak. This is why it is so important to choose to feed the new man and not the old. That which we feed becomes stronger.
God’s relationship with you does involve your heart, but this comes after conversion. Counting the cost is acceptable in making a commitment like discipleship but that is a different matter than conversion.)
This concludes part one. Please feel free to discuss this regardless of your view. I plan to include a brief conclusion at the end of part 2 including more scripture that relate to these issues.
For part 2, please click here:
For further reading: