Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Now when Jesus saw great crowds around Him, He gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” Matthew 8:18-20
One of the most inspiring and sobering books I have ever read is entitled “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman. The premise of the book is that most Christians behave more like “fans” of Christ rather than “followers.” What does that mean?
In the sports world, people are fans of teams. For instance, I am a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team. I own a shirt, a jersey, a hat and a sweatshirt. I go to a few games a year. I read about them in the paper. I am a fan.
However, I do not “follow” the Tampa Bay Lightning, in the sense that this organization leads my life. When there is a conflict between a hockey game and family, family wins. When there is a conflict between work and watching a hockey game wins, work wins. And when the team plays on the other coast so that they are playing until 1:00 a.m. and there is a conflict between watching them and sleeping, off goes the TV and I go to bed, and check the score in the morning.
Many people take the same approach to their Christianity. They are fans. They wear a cross, or have a Bible on their night stand. They even go to church when they can. But when there is a conflict between Christianity and life, life wins. And that might mean choosing a baseball game over worship on a Sunday. Or it might mean choosing dishonesty over honesty because it’s more convenient. It might mean succumbing to peer pressure rather than doing the Godly thing for fear of losing status with your peers.
To be a follower of Christ is a lot different than being a fan. If you are a follower of anything, it means that there is someone who is a leader. And there is both obedience in following the leader and sacrifice, in following the leader where the leader is going, which doesn’t necessarily agree with where we may want to go.
When there is a conflict between what we want (or what our friends want) and what Christ wants, the follower of Christ goes with Christ. The fan doesn’t.
The hockey team needs fans. Because fans fill stadiums and buy gear and allow a business organization (the hockey team is a business) to make money.
Christ doesn’t need fans. He doesn’t need us to buy crosses or Bibles or even fill churches. Christ wants us to go and change the world. Unfortunately, sometimes churches are so caught up with the “business” of the church (making enough money to keep the doors open) that they forget about the “mission” of the church, which is spread the word of God to all nations. Being a Christian is not about what we wear, or the songs we sing. It’s about how we behave, how we serve others. Being a follower of Christ is about loving Christ and serving Him by serving others.
In today’s Bible verses, a scribe came up to Jesus and declared his desire to follow. And Jesus warned him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” In other words, being a follower does not necessarily come with a lot of glamour or convenience. It’s not about just putting on some Christian gear, knowing Christian songs, or even, I dare say, going to church. Being a follower can be like the fox who doesn’t have a hole, or the bird who has no nest. Being a follower might cost you some friends, if you choose Christ over the crowd.
I’m a hockey fan when the team is playing. During the “off season” I’m into a different sport, I don’t give hockey much thought. For followers of Christ, there is no off season, there is no day without a game. Following Christ is a continuous journey, where He is leading, and we are obedient. The journey doesn’t stop, take breaks or have an off season. Following Christ is not something we do only when it’s convenient. As Jesus says in Matthew 8:20, being a follower might actually leave one materially poor. Imagine that Christ had nowhere to lay His head. He didn’t hobnob in fancy hotels or restaurants or enjoy a lavish lifestyle. His constant pursuit wasn’t for money or fame. To the contrary, many times He told someone He healed not to tell anyone.
Following Christ does not necessarily mean we will feel poor or oppressed all the time. However, to truly follow also means there will be times that are difficult and challenging, when we will feel poor or oppressed. In encouraging one another to be better Christians, let’s encourage one another to be followers, not fans, which means being cognizant that there will be many times when it will be hard to be a follower and encouraging one another especially in those times.
In this section of our study, we are focusing on letting the Spirit lead. It’s not about letting our friends lead, or popular media or the latest fashions. To let the Spirit lead means moving ourselves from fans to followers.
Heavenly Father, there are so many joys as well as challenges to being a Christian. Help me to be more follower than fan. Give me strength and wisdom in the times when this is difficult. I love You, Lord! Help me to love You and serve You more and more. Amen.
Be a follower, not a fan!
The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website! There you may find a database for past prayer team messages as well as books by Fr. Stavros and other information about his work and St. John the Baptist Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
These readings are under copyright and is used by permission. All rights reserved. These works may not be further reproduced, in print or on other websites or in any other form, without the prior written authorization of the copyright holder: Reading © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA, Apolytikion of Abbot Marcellus © Narthex Press, Kontakion of Abbot Marcellus © Holy Transfiguration Monastery – Brookline, MA.
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.