Tag Archives: What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?

What is a Christian vision of Authority?

I have recorded and published a new podcast in my “What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?” series. This one takes on the topic of authority.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Introduction:

  1. Christianity uses the language of authority. For example: God is sovereign, Jesus speaks with authority. Jesus is the King. Christians are servants, of Christ.
  2. As a culture we have become uncomfortable with authority. It feels oppressive. Freedom comes when we throw off authority. In fact, a lot of good has come from throwing off oppressive authorities.
  3. There have been many abuses of human authority in the realms of government and religion. We misuse authority when it becomes merely a tool of the powerful against the weak as a way of securing self-interest.

A Christian vision of Authority:

  1. Jesus came as a King, but did not act like the people thought a king should act (with power, coercion, military strength).
  2. Instead Jesus came in humility. He taught an “upside down kingdom”. He died on the cross.
  3. Nevertheless, his death (and subsequent resurrection) was an act of victorious power over our most vicious enemies: Sin and Death.
  4. The pattern of Jesus’s life and death undermines the human vision of authority of the powerful over the weak and gives a truly Christ-centered vision of authority that serves instead of demanding service.
  5. Finally, God has authority as Creator that humans can never have. Abuse of human authority comes when we reject Jesus’s pattern or try to take God’s authority for ourselves.

You can listen to the podcast here. You can also subscribe through any number of podcasting Apps.

How to use What does it Mean to be a Christian? in Discipleship

I remember teaching the story of Joseph at a church-based after school program for Junior and Senior High students. When I told them that his brothers sold him into slavery, many of them were genuinely surprised. For them, the story was new and exciting. For me, it was a wake-up call that I could not assume these student would have a basic understand of Christianity I so often took for granted.

What the students thought they knew of Christianity was often skewed, or so incomplete to be unhelpful. They didn’t know how to connect the dots between the gospel and the Christian life, and many had no connection to a local church, or any understanding of why it would be at all important.

In this, and other ministry contexts, I began to see the need to have a ready outline of the Christian faith, something that would present the gospel and the call of salvation clearly, without a lot of religious jargon, that would connect salvation to the life of the Christian and the life of the church. I wrote What Does it Mean to be a Christian? as an attempt to draw out such an outline. It’s an outline, not exhaustive, but complete enough for new and deeper information to be incorporated into the unified cloth of the faith.

In my church context, I have used the content of this book in two specific ways:

  • Introduce teenagers with limited knowledge of Christianity to the basics of the faith
  • Prepare adults to take the step of believer’s baptism

What Does it Mean to Be a Christian? is split into three parts, and outlines the following topics:

Part 1: Salvation

  • The unified story of the Bible: Creation, Fall, Rescue, Completion
  • The character of God: His Divine and Moral attributes
  • Mankind: Made in the image of God, yet slaves to sin, and in need of God’s rescue
  • Salvation: The gift of God and the call to repentance

Part 2: The Christian Life

  • New life in Jesus through the Spirit: Freedom from sin, freedom to serve
  • The greatest commandment: Love God and love neighbor
  • The Spiritual disciplines: Bible reading, Prayer, Church attendance
  • Embracing the “weirdness” of Christianity, being salt and light

Part 3: The church

  • The nature of the Church: An outline of the theology of the church
  • Baptism and Communion: Essential symbols for a distinctive community
  • The relationship between the Church and the World
  • A call to participate in a local, Bible believing, church

How a ministry leader could use What Does it Mean to Be a Christian?

  • Form an outline for further curriculum development
  • Supplemental reading material for classes giving the basics of the Christian faith
  • A resource to provide to those curious about Christianity
  • A resource for new believers to grow in their faith
  • Preparatory reading for teenagers and adults preparing for baptism

Two more essential notes for ministry leaders:

  • What Does it Mean to Be a Christian? addresses sexuality when discussing the Christian life. It is in no way explicit, but it is probably not appropriate for younger kids.
  • If you’re a ministry leader interested in using this book and have questions, or want to know about a group rate, email me at steve@wpbiblefellowship.org. I would be happy to provide copies of this book at cost ($2.15/book + shipping) to anyone using it in a ministry context.

Available on Amazon

(Paperback) (Kindle)

What Does it Mean to Be a Christian? Now Available


What Does It Mean to Be a Christian?: Exploring the Foundations of the Faith is now available in paperback from Amazon. I’ll have a Kindle version available within the next day or two.

I want to offer a few reflections on writing and publishing this work. I’m glad that I did it, but it also tapped me out emotionally on a few occasions.  

First, what in the world was I doing writing a book?! It just feels so, well, presumptuous. And what a topic!? Who in the world am I to write such a bold title? I really hope nobody thinks this is a definitive work on the topic!

Then there was the reading and re-reading. I wrote and re-wrote it again and again. Every time I read it I was unsatisfied with some wording selection, or I found a minor typo. And every time I made an update I needed to wait another 24 hours for the self-publishing website to complete the review. I eventually discovered that perfection was elusive. At some point I needed to say: Enough is enough. I know it’s not perfect, and I hate then it never will be.

Finally, there’s the fear of putting my work “out there.” I cycle through moods of wanting to share with the world and wanting to make myself invisible. For that part of me that seeks anonymity, this is terrifying.

And yet, here were are. And, despite the fact that I’m 90% embarrassed that I have written and published this book, I’m 10% pleased. That 90% almost convinced me to pull the plug at the last minute. But that 10% is what kept me going throughout and to finally hit submit. So, why did I take on this project?

First, I’m a pastor and I saw an opportunity to share the good news of Jesus. This lies at the root of it. I get to spend a lot of time with young people and adults who have only limited knowledge of the faith, or whose knowledge is distorted.

I wanted a resource that I could give them that went beyond a pamphlet, but that wasn’t so dense or thick they would never read it. I wanted to show the simplicity of the gospel, but at the same time not be so simplistic that essentials were lost. I saw that there was a need to connect the dots between salvation, the Christian life, and the church. I knew of some other books that did something similar (think: John Stott’s Basic Christianity or N.T. Wright’s Simple Christianity) but nothing that was exactly what I was looking for.

Second, I know that my relationship gives me a voice other author’s might not have. No, I’m not the best writer or theologian out there. I’m no John Stott or N.T. Wright. But, I do have a voice, and I know those to whom I am speaking. To that degree this book is eminently local. In that sense it’s like a letter, written in a context, for people who I want to know and love Jesus.

So here it is, better or worse. I offer it to God as a meager offering. I pray he uses it in someone’s life to get to know Jesus, or get to know Jesus better.