How do I get started with following Jesus?
What is a Christian?
The word “Christian” literally means “little Christ.” Since the word “Christ” means anointed or chosen one, to be a Christian is to be someone who is a little anointed one, a person who follows after the example of the chosen one who chose them. A Christian acknowledges that Jesus is their Savior, the One set apart to redeem them. Jesus claimed this role for himself, quoted in John 14:6, when he bluntly declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
A Jesus-follower is part of the church and goes to the meetings because they have a genuine relationship with Jesus as their Lord, the one to whom they owe allegiance and honor, and because they want to be encouraged in their faith. But just going to church without a relationship with Christ won’t make someone a true Christian—any more than walking in the woods makes you a tree. It’s not just a matter of where one goes, but who one knows. Knowing and being known by Jesus makes you a Christian; following the master who leads you makes you a Christ-follower.
How do I become a Jesus-Follower?
To become a Jesus follower you need to follow, which starts by welcoming a relationship with Jesus Christ, the risen Lord. Jesus died and rose again and is alive to love us, help us and intercede for us. This relationship begins when you come to Jesus and acknowledge that you can’t and shouldn’t make it on your own. We have all missed the mark when it comes to our allegiance to God and even in living up to the standards we have set for ourselves. We humbly come to God, knowing we have sinned and been sinned against. We need to admit who we have become and ask for forgiveness and restoration, because we were meant to live in love with God. Like the prodigal child in Luke 15, we must come to our senses, go home and be our true selves.
We have many things from which to be saved. That’s why Jesus came to be our Savior. Romans 2:1 says, “Therefore you have no excuse, every one of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.” We all have things in us which are worthy of condemnation. The work of Jesus in his life, on the cross, through the resurrection and through his life among us in the Spirit frees us from condemnation. Are you ready to admit your failure, isolation, and brokenness? Jesus is God forgiving you and cleansing you from all your guilt and from everything that clutters your relationship with God. That’s the first step—receiving the love of God in Jesus and being restored in right relationship. Just pray it.
Becoming and being a Christian is not really about being “Catholic” or “Protestant” or “Baptist” or “Brethren In Christ” (with whom Circle of Hope is connected). Joining one church or another is not the issue; it is all about committing to follow Jesus. In fact, it seems quite possible that there are all kinds of people who call themselves “Christians,” both Catholics and Protestants, who may think they are Christians because they go to church and do other good things, but who don’t really know Jesus. That seems to be the message Jesus gives in Matthew 7:21-23. He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus goes on to describe that it is not enough to talk the talk, but what is important is our relationship with him and how it shows in how we speak the truth in love and serve his cause. The Bible uses a word for that demonstration of our relationship with God; it is called “faith”—which simply means “active trust,” believing in someone or something enough to act upon that belief. Are you ready to commit your life to following Jesus as his disciple? He’s ready to lead you into new life now and forever. Tell Jesus you want that. Then tell someone else you did it.
Do I have to become a weird person to become a Christian?
Sometimes people think God wants them to become some 1950’s version of themselves (or 1550!) in order to be a Christian. The Church often seems stuck in some past era! But that is not what being a Jesus follower is all about. Christ loves you as YOU—your personality, your likes, your style. If he wanted only a bunch of TV preachers for his followers, he would have cloned them! So if you’re cool, you can still be cool. If you’re not, that’s OK too. Jesus has called us to freedom; we’re not stuck in the old ways of sorting and being sorted. So there can be diversity of expression among his followers—from punks to CEOs and activists to academics.
That being said, being a Christian will probably make you at least a little of the same kind of weird that Jesus was. In the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the New Testament of the Bible), Jesus makes it plain that we need to make a radical change in our lives and go against the against-God trends, systems, values, and assumptions which are part of the passing-away world. At times this might not be popular with those around you who may be offended by your chosen path, even to the point of antagonism or rejection.
In the book of John, chapter 15, Jesus says to his followers, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.” So be prepared! The world may not love you like Jesus loves you. What’s more, we all have a temptation to try to save our lives ourselves—just like we were doing before we found out that Jesus had already accomplished what we can’t do! Some people may see your pursuit of Christ as the first steps down the path toward ultimate weirdness and something inside you may agree. But, ultimately, you know you will lose your life if you are in charge of saving it. We have to live, even if some people might like to keep us in death. What they think does not decide our faith.
How do I get personal help with receiving faith in Jesus?
1. Any pastor would love to talk it over with you by phone, email or in person.
A pastor leads the leaders of a congregation and spends their days wondering if people like you are OK and finding their way along the way of Jesus. If you go to our public website, you can see their pictures and find their email. Or you can just talk to them at the Sunday meeting (don't be afraid to interrupt them and ask for some time to talk).
2. Any of the cell leaders can help.
A cell leader is a pastor of ten (or so) people. In their little expression of the church, they feel happy to help someone get “from here to there” in faith. They won’t mind if you don’t believe certain things and they don't care how slow you develop.
3. The About Circle of Hope meeting might be perfect for you.
These small gatherings are the ultimate “earth” meetings, in that they are all about seeds being planted and faith sprouting. They are all about seedling relationships being watered and the sun shining on places of our lives that have been in the dark. Their content is mostly the questions people bring about Circle of Hope and about how Jesus is alive in us and how He is leading us these days. They happen in each congregation and are usually led by the pastor. Most of the time you can find out when they are scheduled by looking at the Gifts for Growing offerings (see below).
4. Take first steps into the Bible
The Bible is a compilation of time-tested wisdom and history-changing revelation that the Church collected in its first centuries. Over time, many faithful people have interpreted and applied the core. Meditating on it is a sure way to get to know God.
The Gospel of John
We think listening to one of Jesus’ disciples, John, is the best place to begin when it comes to the Bible. The Bible is divided in the Old and the New Testaments. The first four books of the New Testament focus on the story of Jesus. They are called “gospels:” a new form of writing the early church invented to tell the good news about Jesus. The fourth gospel, written by one of Jesus’ followers named John, is a great place to start if you are a new follower of Jesus.
There are many Bible study tools online. You can sort them out with your cell or pastor. They are not equal. Here is a site that provides the text of the Gospel of John. There is also a commentary that explains some of the background scholars offer. Plus there are some videos that suggest how to understand and apply it. Here is a video version of the Gospel of John Gospel of John – The Life of Jesus (Type in the title on YouTube to find other languages. Here it is in Spanish)
5. Receive the Gifts for Growing
We lay out a path from here to there in faith each year and provide resources for people making their way in deeper faith, hope and love. We call the resources “gifts for growing” since someone among us has given them as a gift to help us come to our fullness. Here are a few samples of the kinds of offerings which could be especially useful to everyone who is newly planted with faith:
- Prayer workshops teach us to talk to God and listen for the movement of the Spirit.
- The annual Comfort Retreat gives us basic tools for healing and learning to hope.
- Getting to know the Bible is a year-long series for everyone who wants to know more about our favorite book.
- Parenting workshops can help you learn how to use what Jesus gives you to parent better.
- A Making the Most of Your Money workshop happens each quarter. In the 'earth section of the schedule "Organizing the Greenbacks" offers some basic budgeting help
- An About Circle of Hope meeting is hosted by the pastors to give people a basic understanding of who God has made us as a church.