Update & Further Thoughts on Do you "follow Jesus"? Or are you "saved by Jesus?

A few days ago I wrote about the trend of the young millennials calling themselves Jesus followers instead of Christians. Jesus followers are almost uniformly young, claim that the 'baggage' of the label 'Christian' weighs down their walk, and they'd rather be in a relationship than in a religion with rules.

I liked the essay I wrote and I posted it, but I still did some research, feeling like a piece was missing from my thought process. Turns out there was. And here it is:

Church. The Body.

Millennials who claim to be following Jesus almost always leave the ecclesiology out of their walk.

This term today of 'following Jesus' is so common out in the world! Most millennials are spouting this. Of course there is baggage in the term Christian. Of course there are rules. That is the point, but most Millennials want the soft, gentle parts of the relationship without the hard parts of the religion. And they bristle at the doctrines of sin and judgment. Most are not saved.

Here is a short essay on the subject of Christ follower or Christian by Tyler Braun, who wrote "Why Holiness Matters" from Moody Press. His thoughts crystallized some things for me.

Christ Follower or Christian by Tyler
Spend some time on Facebook and look at the religious views of many and you will quickly learn that there is a trend to be a “Christ Follower,” “Follower of Christ,” or “Follower of Jesus” rather than a “Christian.” You might be asking why… I think this is something common in the younger generations who are unhappy with the way Christians have represented their faith in the past. So rather than being grouped with the “Christians” they’d rather keep the religion out of it in order to only follow Jesus.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this practice of denying being a “Christian” in order to be a “Christ follower” is completely wrong. About the only positive I can see is the extra emphasis on following Jesus. There are many people who do not hold to any of the basic tenets of the Christian faith who are “following Jesus.” Why is it wrong?

--It isolates. Meaning that part of being a Christ follower is being in relationship with fellow Christians, not just those who follow Jesus the way we do.

--It segregates. The Christian faith has enough division. There is no need for there to be a division in how we state what we are as believers.
That's good. Very good.

Here is a snippet from Time Magazine reporting on the trend that also crystallized the final thoughts about this trend for me:
...some also worry that "follower of Jesus" diverts people from the fundamentals. "Two questions constantly come up," says Richard Mouw, president of Fuller Theological Seminary. "The first is Christology. What about the full divinity of Christ? How much can you keep that in the background? Second, what's the role of the church in all this?"

Horse with blinkers, or blinders CC by Steve
Again, very good. Many 'Christ followers' are like the horse with blinders, following only the straight line ahead, one horse unto itself, unmindful of those who are next to him or behind him. To some extent we adults have caused this. Millennials go to large para-church conferences like Passion, which they believe is church but is not church. Except for their youth minister, Passion doesn't even allow parents or adults to attend with their children! Millennials attend Rock the Universe concerts that are promoted as Praise weekends, which they believe is church but is not church. The Mars Hill mentality of music as worship they believe is church but is not church. An even to some extent, separating the youths from the regular congregation as an entity unto themselves, sequestered in their own buildings, without the benefit of older role models to view and interact with, they believe is church but often is not church.

"The church itself is a dark and modern giant auditorium, with theater-style seats, an impressive sound system, and big flat-screen TV's everywhere. It looks like the kind of place you might see a concert in, but not somewhere you'd expect to go to church. The prominently featured indie-style rock band felt right at home here, as did the theatrics that followed." Millennial aged Mars Hill church goer.
We've given them para-church, home groups, praise group weekends, Walks to Emmaus and Chrysalis, and rock concerts, so is it any wonder they reject rules, religion, worship, and submission to the church leadership? Is it any wonder they eschew the word Christian as baggage, want to 'follow' Christ, and go off on their own? Is it any wonder they have no clue of what it means to be part of a body submitting to leadership, and not just a singular follower blissfully doing their own thing?

Not a Christian, But a Christ-Follower? 
The downside of trying to re-brand your Christian identity
And the effort to uproot Jesus from the church makes as much sense as loving someone's head, but not their body; or admiring Thomas Jefferson and sneering at the Constitution. Jesus is the foundation and cornerstone and head of the church. Without the people Jesus comes from, without the people Jesus births into the world, there is no Jesus. The people Jesus births into the world are called "Christian."

We're either all Christ followers or none of us are. We are all in a body, with Jesus as its Head. That body is called church, and church has rules as does our life. The relationship we have is to Christ, but it is also to each other. Christ followers, please heed this passage:

Unity in the Body of Christ

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. (Ephesians 4:1-6)

Original essay: Do you "follow Jesus"? Or are you "saved by Jesus?"


Further reading-

Liberals change word meanings with intent to deceive
The cults are infamous for perverting historically accepted biblical terms. “Is it any wonder then,” said the late Christian apologist/polemicist Dr. Walter Martin in The Riddle of Semantics, “that orthodox Christians feel called upon to openly denounce such perversions of clearly defined and historically accepted biblical terminology, and claim that the cults have no rights — scholastically, biblically, or linguistically — to redefine biblical terms as they do?” (Source)


  1. Morning! You know I really like your essays. You really found your calling/ministry in writing! Because your essays ARE thought-provoking, I end up thinking about something written here long after I've read it.

    Can't help but wonder if perhaps the "dividing line" is the secular ppl who post at FaceBook -- see, I've never been on FB in my entire life! No desire to. So while I'd agree that many ppl say they are Christ followers, when in reality they are not (easily could happen in real life, too), yet I don't have as much of a problem with this in my own life simply because saying you're a CHRISTIAN these days -- is no way to distinguish between SDA, or Mormonism or Catholicism or WOF or even tares… all of whom call themselves, "Christian" as well!!

    So, going to www.classic.Biblegateway.com I plugged in the word, "follow" and would think none of us would have any trouble with this.

    Matthew 8:19
    Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.”

    Matthew 8:23
    [ Wind and Wave Obey Jesus ] Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.

    Matthew 9:9
    [ Matthew the Tax Collector ] As Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office. And He said to him, “Follow Me.” So he arose and followed Him.

    Matthew 10:38
    And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me.

    Matthew 19:26-28
    27 Then Peter answered and said to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You. Therefore what shall we have?”
    28 So Jesus said to them, “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

    Seriously there are at least FIVE pages worth of the word look up, “FOLLOW” on BibleGateway.com I’d like to challenge your readers to look them up.

    I know I must be a challenge to you at times, Elizabeth, as when I don’t necessarily agree, I will tell you. Then it’s your choice to post it or not (YOUR blog ~ smile!) I have to wonder if too big of a deal is being made out of semantics here?? Perhaps not, but in my humble opinion, yes. The BOTTOM LINE IS: We cannot be “Christians” without being “Followers of Christ” ~ impossible!

    So again, just IMHO, why make such a to-do out of word choice when it’s really a matter of the heart and actions and fruits? I can understand a careful word choice when others weren’t craft fully and cunningly using the same terminology, but they do and are (with BOTH the labels, “Christians” AND “followers of Jesus”.) We can’t help it that we live in a world of tares; it’s just the time God deemed for us to live in.

    Just my 2 cents...

  2. Hi Reva,

    Thanks for letting me know that the writing that God has enabled me to do is fruitful to your mind and heart. No you’re not a trial to me at all! Discussion is always good and you’re always polite about it.

    I did acknowledge in my original essay that “Yes, Jesus said "Follow me" many times. He said it in Matthew 4:19, Matthew 16:24, John 8:12, Luke 5:11, 1 Peter 2:21, John 10:27, etc. It is biblical to say that one is a follower of Jesus. I cannot categorically condemn the phrase.”

    It could be just semantics, but then I thought about it some more and decided, no it’s not just semantics. It is why I wrote the update. (this essay).

    The issues with “Christ follower” versus "Christian" are two-fold. One is being divisive and changing a commonly understood term for the same of attempting to adapt to the culture, something I mentioned briefly in the original essay. ANY TIME people decide to change something that had been this way for 2000 years should be cause for instant suspicion. Seeking 'relevance' or thinking that 'today's culture is different' is total hogwash. We are no different than Corinth and as a matter of fact are probably not even as corrupt as they were.

    The second issue with the term 'Christ follower,' I explored in *this* updated essay. It is about ecclesiology. Christ followers are often church-less. And this is where it is not about semantics but about submitting to a congregation with leadership, something Christ followers, at least the Millennial generation, often fail to do. Many 'Christ followers" blithely follow Christ and forget the congregation. They should be following Christ right straight to church, but many don't.

    As far as your statement "The BOTTOM LINE IS: We cannot be “Christians” without being “Followers of Christ” ~ impossible!"... I said that in the original essay. I said exactly that.

    What I also said was this: that many people who "follow Jesus" aren't saved, like Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, and JWs.

    If you call yourself a Christian then everyone knows who you are and what you stand for.

    I make a to-do over the language because it matters. Language is how we communicate who we are in Christ, and what we stand for. We sin- we don't make "mistakes". We go to "church"- not a "gathering." We "submit" we don't "cast vision". Satan will ALWAYS try to soften what God hath said, and this is one way he does it- small changes in language that add up over time. I make a to-do because the bible says we must remain vigilant and stay on guard. This is one way to do that. For example, the 'semantics' between the words 'sin' and 'mistake',

    1 John 1:9 says "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." and here the word confess means 'agree with God."

    We are not agreeing with God if we don't know what a sin is and we refuse to call it that! When the verse says confess our sins, sin in Greek means 'failure'. Mistake just means error in judgment, and it evades responsibility. 'Oops!" Sin is a failure to *God* we must rectify by acknowledging & confessing. Changing the word sin into mistake puts an unBiblical spin on it. "Hath God said?"

    I am NOT a "Jesus follower" because we are so much MORE than that and I do not wish to deny any of what God hath said or what He calls us to be. I am a Christian.

    If you like "Jesus follower" then great. It is a matter of Christian liberty to call yourself what you want. I cannot be dogmatic and I can't judge that. All I ask is to explore your reasons for wanting to NOT identify with the Bride as it has been called for 2000 years.

  3. I could be wrong, but when Jesus asked the disciples to follow them, they were not christians, they were "followers of Jesus." They became Christians after the ressurrection and filling of the Holy Spirit. Is this correct?
    Also, if you notice in the gospels through Acts, Jesus is referred to as Jesus. After his ressurrection, he is almost always refferred to with his title, Christ or Lord.

    I am in a church where the name of Jesus is easliy cited. I hardly ever hear Lord or God or Father. I have made it my "mission" to speak of The Lord Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. I even bring up our Father and pray to him, in Jesus name. The name, "Jesus" is very trending today in many false churches today.
    Depending on the situation, I normally ask, Christ Jesus, or are you talking about the biblical Jesus?

    I normally say I'm a christian, we may need to qualify this with a follow up of, the kind found in the Bible.

    Elizabeth - your posts really do cause us to think. That's good.


    1. Hi Liz,

      Thanks to your question I looked some more. There is this in Acts 11:26

      "and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians."

      It was a term of derision, a name of contempt, given TO us by the world. Peter said, "However, if you suffer as a Christian, do not be ashamed, but praise God that you bear that name." 1 Peter 4:16

      Millennials who try to shrug off the name so as to please the world *are* ashamed, if we understand what Peter is saying.


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