Summary: A call to authentic discipleship inspired by Kyle Idelman's smallgroup study, Not A Fan, this three-point expository sermon identifies three marks of genuine Christ-followers: denial, dedication, and direction.

Fan or Follower?

Scott Bayles, inspired by Kyle Idleman

Blooming Grove Christian Church: 8/10/2014

How many of you know what the letters DTR stand for? I didn’t know what DTR stood for until this week. Now I’m familiar with LOL, OMG, YOLO, and ROFLMAO. But I hadn’t heard DTR before. I actually looked it up on But for a young man in a relationship, these letters strike fear in their hearts. They dread the DTR talk. It makes single men so uncomfortable they will only use the initials DTR. The objective is to postpone, run away, and put off DTR for as long as possible. In fact many men are so afraid of the DTR, they will self-destruct the relationship when they sense the DTR talk is imminent. Now do you want to guess what DTR stands for? D.T.R. stands for Define the Relationship. This is an official talk that takes place at some point in a romantic relationship to determine the level of commitment. You define the relationship and decide where things stand. Is it casual or is it committed? How serious is this relationship and where is it going? And how you feel about the DTR talk is determined by how committed you are to the relationship. If the relationship is one of convenience that you want to keep casual, then you will feel uncomfortable. You might feel anxious, shift in your seat a little bit, or you may even have a fight or flight response.

Some of you may have those same feelings this morning, because we’re going to have a little DTR talk. I want you to define the relationship between you and Jesus. What exactly is your commitment level? Now I’ll warn you that some of you are going to get a little uncomfortable, a little anxious…you may even have a fight or flight response because you kind of like the current arrangement you have with Jesus. He seems like a good guy and you like having something to do on the weekends. For some of you it comes down to this—you want to have a relationship with Jesus with all the benefits but none of the commitment. A no-strings-attached arrangement where you can connect with him from time to time but it doesn’t really mess with your life.

In other words, you want to be a fan of Jesus but not a follower. Kyle Idelman produced a small group Bible study a few years back called Not A Fan. In it, he says a fan is simply defined as an enthusiastic admirer, but not a committed follower. A concern I have with our churches today is that when we gather together I think there is the possibility that instead of a community of followers we are nothing more than a stadium full of fans. We may wear a cross, but we don’t bear the cross. You can come to church, know all the songs, open your Bible and take notes, walk out to your car with a Jesus fish on the bumper and say grace before lunch, but that doesn’t necessarily make you a follower of Christ.

In the first century, Jesus was more popular than the Beetles. Throngs of fervent fans followed him everywhere he went. From town to town, from shore to shore, they would walk miles just to catch a glimpse of him. And Jesus loved them. He showed them compassion and kindness. Luke 9 tells of the time Jesus fed a crowd of 5,000 men with just five loaves and two fish. Of course, that’s not counting the women and children. There may have been ten, fifteen, even twenty thousand people stretched across the Galilean beach that night. Jesus had to slip quietly away just to get a few minutes alone to pray. So every so often Jesus would say or do something to thin the herd a little, to determine who in the crowd were followers and who were fans.

In Luke 9 Jesus did that with one simple statement. Jesus said to the crowd, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23 NIV). Jesus was never impressed by the size of the crowd; it’s the commitment level that he cares about. So the question is this: Are you a fan or a follower? I want you to measure your commitment level against this statement to find out. In this challenging verse Jesus gives us three marks or signs of a fully sold out follower. The first one is denial.


If we focus on just the first part of this challenge, Jesus says, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves…” (Luke 9:23 NIV). Another translation says, “you must turn from your selfish ways” (NLT). Many of us are not genuinely following Christ because we’re too busy looking out for ourselves.

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