I cannot not remember when I became a Clemson fan. I remember when I first became passionate about swimming. I remember when I first became passionate about concerts. I even remember when I first became passionate about American Gladiators, which my mom remembers too! But I cannot remember when I first became passionate about Clemson athletics. It has just always seemed to be there.
This isn’t because there is some genetic code that predisposed me to the color orange. Rather, it was first the result of my family’s passion for Clemson. Some people may commend my family for this fact and others might call it child abuse. Either way, I grew up around Clemson my whole life. But the funny thing is that two of my best friends did as well. Two of my best friends who are now Gamecock fans!
You see, there was a time for all three of us when our decision on which school we loved had to become our own decision – not a family one. As I made my decision to attend Clemson for college I began to be a fan in a whole new way. My wardrobe took on an ever greater orange flare. I gladly sacrificed Tuesday and Wednesday nights during the winter to sit in the student section at basketball games. And after graduation, I began scheduling one trip annually to an away football game so that I could do my part to make sure Clemson always had a strong crowd each and every Saturday.
But for my two friends, things began to look very different. They enrolled at the University of South Carolina and immediately fell in love with its traditions. Road trips to Atlanta and Raleigh were replaced with trips to Athens and Knoxville. Pulling against Florida State no longer made much of a difference, but the Florida Gators’ recruiting efforts came into full view. And most jarring to me, an entire wardrobe was dismissed for a new one. They didn’t just receive their diploma from South Carolina. They were Gamecocks – through thick and thin!
Now I understand not everyone reading this blog will know what I am talking about because sports may not be your thing. But something is! There is some type of activity or hobby that you are passionate about. What separates something you do from something you love to do can be defined by your involvement with it. The fact that someone loves musicals can be seen in a person’s closet full of old programs. The fact that someone loves to knit or sew is displayed at their friends’ houses who all have gifts hanging from their walls. The fact that someone loves Christmas can be heard when their car pumps out Christmas music in the middle of May. You see, passions always look like something. We are just wired that way!
I use this as an analogy to help you understand our church’s fourth core value: discipleship. I used to think of a Christian and a disciple as two different levels of believers. I thought that while every person who trusted in Christ as their Savior was a Christian, only the most committed Christians were truly disciples. This was the way I thought about Clemson fans – with some people merely preferring Clemson over other schools while the most committed fans went to every game every season. That may be true of sports fans, but not so for the Christian.
Biblically speaking, a Christian and a disciple are the same thing. To be sure, there are believers who have walked with God longer than others. But there is no difference according to the Bible between being a Christian and being a disciple. They are synonymous. Why? Because someone who has truly accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior is a person who has new passions and desires. It doesn’t mean that we can’t still be passionate about other things. But it does mean that our deepest desires and passions are now for things of Christ. That’s what happens when the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us.
So our fourth core value at Verdae Presbyterian Church is merely an acknowledgment of this fact. It is in our DNA as a church for our members to not merely be Christians by name. We want to be Christians in all that we do. We want people to be plugged into one another’s lives within the church. We want a commitment to God’s Word to be reflected in the things we do every day. And we want our community to notice it.
The next two weeks we will unpack two main ways that we want to help facilitate discipleship within our church: small groups and counseling. But the foundation for discipleship is not some newfound commitment that a person drums up to “do better.” Rather it is the acknowledgment that the Holy Spirit has lit a flame inside every true believer, and it is our job as a church to fan that flame as it becomes a blazing fire. A blazing fire that invades every part of a person’s life. Because being a Christian means being a disciple. And being a disciple opens up a lifetime of fulfilling joy. Something that no other passion or hobby could ever provide!
“And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied.” – Acts 9:31