I Think I’ll Just Be A Normal Christian From Now On

photo from Thomas Fisher

FACT: We Christians love labeling ourselves.

We’re Reformed, we’re Charismatic, we’re emergent, we’re justice seeking, we’re seeker sensitive, we’re adoptional (I don’t think that’s a word), we’re missional, we’re called to foreign missions, we’re radical, we’re Christian hedonists, we’re organic, all-natural, authentic, and label-loving. You get the point. And I have been extremely helped by so many of these categories. I’m so grateful for the push towards adoption, for Reformed theology, for Christian hedonism, and for the evangelistic emphasis of the missional minded folks.

But sometimes all the labels can be a burden to me. I’m sure the problem is totally with me and my legalistic self, but it seems like each label carries specific requirements with it. If I’m going to be missional I need to be highly focused on reaching out to my community with the gospel. If I’m going to be adoptional I need to create a community of adoption within my church and possibly adopt children myself. If I’m called to missions I need to be constantly thinking about and praying for the unreached people groups in the world. If I’m truly seeking justice I need to be making a concerted effort towards ending sex trafficking in the United States. You get the point.

There are a lot of blog posts and tweets and status updates that remind me of all that I should be doing. I need to more missional, more missions minded, more focused on the Holy Spirit, more authentic with my neighbors, more committed to the cause of adoption, more careful with my eating habits, and more  committed to ending sex trafficking in America.

And don’t get me wrong, each of these things is truly biblical. It’s right and good to reach out to the community and to adopt children and to reach the unreached people groups and to fight against horrific things like sex trafficking. But I can’t do all these things at one time with equal intensity and fervor. I’m a pretty limited guy. I’m married and I have three little girls who want to play with dollies and puzzles. I have a yard that needs mowing and a grandpa that needs visiting and people in my church who I need to pray for. I battle physical anxiety from time to time, which puts real physical limitations on what I can do. Most of the time I feel like I’m barely keeping my head above water.

So I think I might just be a normal Christian from now on. In John 15:5 Jesus said:

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.

I take this to mean that if I stay close to Jesus and spend time with Jesus and have lots of Jesus’ word in me, I will produce much fruit for Jesus. I’ll do the things that Jesus wants me to do. I’ll be a truly fruitful, successful Christian. Maybe I’ll adopt kids, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll be a missionary to India, but maybe not. Maybe I’ll host a community outreach…maybe not.

If I stay close to Jesus he’ll lead me into the good works that he has prepared for me.

The reality is, the folks in my church who are the most fruitful for Christ are simply those who are closest to Christ. I think of long-term member Tim McKelvy. I don’t think he could tell you what it means to be missional but he and his wife Donna are constantly reaching out to people. I think of my 93 year-old grandfather who probably couldn’t articulate Reformed theology and yet does a Bible study at a nursing home every single month. I think of my dad, who isn’t “adoptional” and yet has adopted two kids.

I want to be like Tim and Donna and my grandpa and my dad. They’re just normal Christians who stay close to Jesus and trust Jesus to make them fruitful.

Here’s to normal.

  • http://www.modernpilgrimjourney.wordpress.com Jim

    I am a disciple and follow Christ…….that is the only label I need.

    • Stephen Altrogge

      Yep! My identity is in Christ.

  • http://www.docsdining.blogspot.com Jason

    I like you, a lot. Thank you for sharing your wisdom.

    • Stephen Altrogge

      You're welcome!

  • photini

    Or, as we Eastern Orthodox say, "We are Orthodox , but not Jewish. We are catholic, but not Roman. We are evangelical–rooted in the Scriptures and preaching the good news of Jesus Christ– but are not Protestant. We do not consider ourselves simply another denomination of Christianity, nor are we a so-called "non-denominational" group. Rather, we are really PRE-denominational.* We are the ancient Christian Church, but fully alive and in fact living God's Future Kingdom right here and now. "Orthodox" means both true-Faith and true-worship. We don't separate them…because they cannot rightly be separated! As Jesus said, the future People of God worship "in Spirit and in Truth."

  • cynthia

    What is it about us? It's as if we need labels not necessarily to identify ourselves but to judge others. Legalism at its sneakiest. I'm thankful for God's grace and the freedom that comes with being His child. Thank you for your post!

    • Stephen Altrogge

      You're welcome! Yeah we so quickly put labels on ourselves.

  • Mark

    Thanks for this Stephen. I was thinking along these same lines last night as I scanned over Facebook. There are so many links to articles, blogs, studies, causes, etc. and probably many of them are worthwhile, but all of it together becomes burdensome. There's only so much one can take in and dedicate time and energy to and I really appreciate this reminder to keep perspective and focus on Christ. And Happy Birthday!

    • Stephen Altrogge

      Yeah, I feel the same way when I scan Facebook. There is just too much to do! I just want to stay close to Christ.

  • stac14

    I heard Jim Cymbala voice very similar ideas last Tuesday at his church. Labels divide and separate. I want to focus on the things that unite us, draw our hearts together, and put us in the same family. Thanks for the great posts. I look forward to reading what you write every day.

  • http://suziebeezie.typepad.com/ suzanne b.

    I liked this a lot.

    • Stephen Altrogge

      I'm glad!

  • http://alwaysalleluia.com Kris

    I really love this. A lot. Thank you, I will be sharing this with my friends, in hopes that they might also be encouraged by your wisdom. God bless you, as you serve Him.

  • http://speakingtothesoul.blogspot.com Nicole McLernon

    Thanks for this. I so appreciated the reminder to just stay close to Jesus.

  • Joy

    This is great!
    I am so glad that I clicked the link from a friend on Twitter that lead me to your site.
    I look forward to pouring a cup of coffee and reading through your work.

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