This is John and Gregg’s second discussion of chapter eleven from Not a Fan by Kyle Idleman. John observes a continued message of “try harder” and “it doesn’t count unless it’s painful,” combined with an orientation (as noted in previous episodes) that appears to lead to untenable conclusions.
Further, instead of placing his message in a cultural context of the time or reconciling it with other parts of scripture that seem to conflict with it, Idleman appears to be intent on taking a very literal directive in Luke 9:23 and applying it exactly to our lives today. Gregg attempts to recast the message he sees Idleman drawing from Luke 9:23 as, “an invitation to orient ourselves towards our culture and society as Jesus did for the reasons that he did it.”
Seemingly absent from Idleman’s message is “WHY” Jesus sacrificed and suffered, which Gregg attributes to Jesus’ love for us and for God. Idleman instead focuses on “WHAT” Christians should focus on–“following” Jesus and doing that he did (and particularly, experiencing pain and suffering). To that end, John wonders what exactly the word “follow” means as it relates to God, noting that explicitly “following” another person in a human context lacks relationship and is ultimately empty. Similarly, Idleman’s message seems to lack consideration of individuality, creativity, and personal expression.
Idleman appears to drive towards a message of personal surrender (death) through self-effacement and emptying, as exemplified by Christ’s death and directive to “take up our cross” daily. Gregg turns it around, claiming “It’s not about death–it’s about life.” If Jesus doesn’t come back to life, Christianity has no value no message of redemption. The gospels are replete with example of Jesus bringing “life” and healing people, not “bringing death.”
Finally, Idleman contends that only by “dying to ourselves” will we find “true life and real life in Christ.” Yet starkly absent is any explanation or picture of what “real life or true life in Christ” is. It seems to be a pre-supposed or assumed that everyone knows what this is because Idleman spends zero pages explaining it or describing what it looks like to him.