When I was serving in Zambia during March of 2014, I ran into a mission team from a small town in Southern Manitoba. When it was time for their team to return back to Canada, a lady from that team gave me a book titled, not a fan by Kyle Idleman.
I had no idea who he was. However, to my own surprise, I actually did come across his teachings several years ago without even realizing it. I needed to rewind my memory several years ago to 2008 when I was given a DVD series called, H2O: A Journey of Faith.
This was a DVD Curriculum series of ten sessions meant for small groups to discuss the character of Jesus Christ. Each session was approx 30 minutes and provided various engaging stories to help describe the different aspects of being a follower of Jesus. Originally released in 2006, this was suppose to cater to a media-driven generation which has become even more hungry with the massive surge of social media, Youtube, and of course the internet itself. I enjoyed most of these videos and I thought they were well done.
So fast forward back to 2014, it was not until I flipped the back of this book and saw a picture of the actual writer of the H20 series who provided commentary in the sessions. With that figured out, I could actually put a face and a voice to his first entry as a published author, not a fan.
Idleman has a very straight forward black and white approach in his message. He uses the premise of Luke 9:23 which states "And He said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.'" as the basis of his book. One of his messages that he focusses on is that there are two types of Christians when it comes to their relationship with Jesus; Fans and Followers. Broken up into 3 parts, he focusses the first part of his book to help readers understand the differences between being a Fan and a Follower of Jesus. The second part shares the open invitation ALL of us are given to follow Jesus and what following Him actually means. The third and final part of this book examines what being a follower of Jesus looks like in our world today.
At the end of most chapters, there are 1-2 page brief testimonies of real life stories shared by people who once lived a life without Jesus, and how they eventually became followers of Him. I actually really enjoyed these parts as these were very inspiring stories.
The biggest strength of Idleman's writing is how he uses many analogies and stories from his own personal life. This breathes life and relevance into his message about what following Jesus looks like. I respect his use of scripture to support his messages which made them appreciative to read. Had he not used scripture, I would have been skeptical and challenged some of his thoughts and reasonings to some of his claims. His scriptural support probably saves this book from becoming a series of unproven biased opinions.
"A belief, no matter how sincere, if not reflected in reality isn't a belief; it's a delusion" - page 106
"We talk a lot about the truth that being a Christian means believing in Jesus - but we don't say much about denying ourselves. That is such an unappealing message. How do you deny yourself in a culture that says it's all about you?" - page 144
"Am I really carrying a cross if there is no suffering and sacrifice?" - page 161
There have been some reviews that have been critical of Idleman's own attempt at defining who are fans and who are followers based on requirements he mentions; As if he somehow has a right to label Christians like that. While I understand those concerns, I did not feel that way. If anything, I personally felt convicted and challenged; Not because of what he said, but because the truth of scripture backs up his claims. Therefore, I do not share those same thoughts from other reviewers.
What felt slightly odd of not a fan was how much it resembled the I Am Second ministry. It appears similar with the way the testimonies end with the person stating their name and going on to say "...and I am not a fan" which something the I Am Second ministry is well known for when ending off testimonies.Not to mention their black T-shirts that again look similar to the I Am Second ones. These similarities do not at all hurt the message that Idleman is trying to share. I guess I am just nit picking now because Whether or not Idleman used ideas from I Am Second or not is irrelevant since he clearly has his own unique message.
I also feel there is a slight contradiction that the title is, not a fan, yet at the very last pages, I can order and purchase not a fan DVDs, T-shirts, and bracelets as if I was being encouraged to 'be a fan' of 'not a fan'.
Overall, I take very few issues with not a fan. It speaks difficult and harsh truths that I believe many Christians need to hear. Those critical against Kyle's teachings could also be a reflection that maybe the truth actually does hurt; which is the whole point. It is to wake Christians up and take a deep honest look at their own relationship with Jesus. I found this to be an engaging read. Anyone from any age demographic can pick up a copy up and be challenged by what Idleman shares. It was well worth the time to read and will no doubt change lives.
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