I believe that one of the great fears that many Christians have is that the people with whom they interact in society will look down on them as being strange or “fanatic.” This fear is actually unfounded in most cases. Most of the people who are considered friends and colleagues tend to accept those they interact with regardless of religious belief – at least at a certain level.
But there are always those militant or obnoxious people who try to quiet Christians by putting down their faith. There are various reasons people do this. Some of them are true believers in some other belief system and are actively advocating for their own faith. Others are people who are running from God and use these kinds of tactics to keep Christians from witnessing to them. Still others are just obnoxious people who use tactics like that to get the upper hand on their “competition.”
As Christians, what we believe really is the truth. We don’t need to be apologetic or fearful about it. At the same time, we can be effective witnesses without being obnoxious. However, if we are going to pull this off, there are some things that will help us in this arena.
Perhaps one of the most neglected elements of faith life for most Christians lies in education. No one can become competent in any field without laying down a knowledge foundation – and this is true for our Christian faith, as well. We expect our “professional” Christian leaders to get a good theological education, but tend to have no such expectation for the man/woman in the pew.
But this is just wrong. As Christians, we have both a vocation and a calling. In the case of professionals, the two overlap in the same field. But “the man in the pew” is called into full time Christian ministry just as surely as the professionals. It is just that the calling is lived out from a different vocational platform. That being the case, it is just as important for“non-professional” Christians to become theologically literate as for the professionals.
But most Christians don’t have that expectation of themselves – which leads to the lack of growth we see in the modern church. Pastors need to provide in-depth training opportunities for their people – either by themselves or using various kinds of other resources. On the other side, Christians in the pew ought to be clamoring for that kind of training. The effectiveness of a Christian community rises and falls on the knowledge base of the congregation. This does not mean that a person must have a seminary education to be a Christian. But it does mean that the effectiveness of the Christian is much more limited without being thoroughly grounded in the faith. It is this knowledge base that provides a platform for a Christian to be a Christian fanatic (active in living out his or her faith) without being fanatical.
Truly walking with God is not simply a matter of doing what the Bible says at an intellectual level. If the Christian faith really represents the truth, God is a real person who can be known in a real personal relationship.
Most Christians acknowledge that truth intellectually, but many don’t actually live out the implications of their faith in daily life. To truly walk with God means spending time intimately conversing with him and following what he says. When a person truly knows God in this kind of relationship, the evidence of that is seen in the fruit of the individual’s life. It is evidenced in their attitudes, speech, relationships, actions and, literally, every other part of life.
If you want to be a fanatic without seeming fanatical, your walk with God must be completely genuine. Before you can show truth to someone else, that truth has to be a viable part of your own life.
If you truly want to be 100% focused on God without coming across as a fanatic, one the critical elements that must be in place is to avoid coming across as a hypocrite. You must walk the walk or people will not take you seriously. In fact, hypocrisy may be the biggest factor in turning people away from the Christian faith.
If God truly is a real, objective person as we claim, then we must live our lives in a relationship with him. This includes expressing language and a lifestyle that conforms to the very character of God himself. People who not only talk the talk but also walk the walk are respected, not reviled – even if the respect is begrudging.
People tend not to think negatively about people they are friends with – even if they mightily disagree on various issues. When a friendship exists, it is possible to have respect for the person “in spite of” the differences. In that case, a person may not like your position, but they will see you as a person rather than objectify you as a “fanatic.”
The relationship element is vitally important when it comes to the possibility of sharing our faith with people who come from different belief systems. When the respect of a relationship exists, it is possible to have a civil discussion of differences. When no relationship exists, people tend rather to talk past each other since the overriding concern becomes trying to make their own case rather than being personal.
The Nice Fanatic
No one wants to be referred to as a “fanatic” – that is unless it is meant in a positive way. As Christians, we certainly do want to be known as one who takes our faith seriously. We want people to know what we stand for and to have the ability to effectively partner with God to bring people into his kingdom. We can do this as we become more knowledgeable about our faith, are fully convinced of our belief on a personal level, express our faith in a truly genuine way and become good with relationships. At that point, we put ourselves in a position to be a powerful instrument of God to accomplish his purpose in the world.
© 2011 Freddy Davis