Book Review: “Not a Fan” by Kyle Idleman

Posted: August 24, 2013 in Book Reviews
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not-a-fanIt is rare when I am blown away by a book, but that has happened this week upon reading Kyle Idleman’s Not a Fan.  Idleman is a teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, one of the largest churches in the U.S.  Until a week ago today, I confess I had no idea who he was.  I attend another Louisville church.  Last Saturday, though, I did the rare thing of attending the Saturday morning men’s Bible study at my church where they just started studying this book.  Midway through the video intro to the study I purchased the Kindle edition and had it downloaded to my phone immediately.  I just finished reading it today.

The subtitle of the book is “Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.”  It compares and contrasts what it looks like to be a fan of Jesus vs. a seriously committed follower.  Divided into three parts, the chapter titles are descriptive of what you can expect inside:

Part 1: fan or follower?

  • Chapter 1: D.T.R. (define the relationship)
  • Chapter 2: a decision or a commitment?
  • Chapter 3: knowledge about him or intimacy with him?
  • Chapter 4: one of many or your one and only?
  • Chapter 5: following Jesus or following the rules?
  • Chapter 6: self-empowered or spirit-filled?
  • Chapter 7: the relationship defined

Part 2: an invitation to follow

  • Chapter 8: anyone – an open invitation
  • Chapter 9: come after me – a passionate pursuit
  • Chapter 10: deny – a total surrender
  • Chapter 11: take up your cross daily – an everyday death

Part 3: following Jesus

  • Chapter 12: wherever. What about there?
  • Chapter 13: whenever. What about now?
  • Chapter 14: whatever. What about that?

Idleman mixes sound biblical teaching with a conversational writing style that is simultaneously convicting, informative, challenging, insightful, and humorous.  If you skip even the chapter’s end notes, you’ll miss some real gems.  Nearly all chapters conclude with a short testimony from someone about his/her personal experience of becoming a committed follower as opposed to a mere fan in the stands for Jesus.

A sure sign of a book’s impact is what the reader does differently as a consequence of reading the book.  For me, I immediately added the book to a very short list of recommended resources I include on a Bible memory brochure I have distributed for the past several years.  With only five books making that list (besides three study Bibles), it takes a book having a major impact on me to make the cut.  This one made it.  As I start to ponder which books will be on my reading list for 2014, I am currently of a mind that this needs to be in the very short list of books I re-read periodically.  It’s that foundational and beneficial.

Of course, the point of the book is not to make a recommended reading list but to help people be true followers of Christ, so in that regard I am confident that its teachings will quickly come to mind when I face those decision points daily that indicate whether I am a fan or a committed follower.  It already has me thinking about a couple of specifics that I may need to change in response to the book.  I am challenged by the author’s experience of making the check he and his wife write monthly for Christian ministry the largest check they write monthly – larger than a house payment or anything else.  I am challenged when asked in the book to name ways in which I have sacrificed for my faith.  I am challenged when I ponder aspects of business life that are contrary to clear biblical teaching and how easy it is to justify separating one’s faith and practice from certain business actions.  The book wasn’t written to comfort the afflicted, but it may very well afflict the comfortable.  That’s a good thing.

Not a Fan has been released in various editions, such as for teens and study groups, and a video series exists to accompany group studies.  There is also a pastor’s kit.  There is so much potential in the message of this book to help transform lives, groups and churches into the Christ followers they can and should be.  The church has done itself no favors by allowing easy-believism, and the message of Not a Fan confronts that practice and it’s damaging consequences head-on.

If you think you are a follower of Jesus, you would do well to read this relatively short, 224-page book.  It may confirm that you are, indeed, a follower (albeit an imperfect one), but it may also jolt you into realizing you’ve just been a fan of Jesus and have never really surrendered to Him.

If you want some specific suggestions for further exploration of the subject, here are my recommendations:

Ultimately, the best thing you can do is to be a committed follower of Jesus.  Don’t be a fan.

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