Christian or Christ-follower?

I avoid the word “Christian” when talking about the church, because the word has become meaningless.

According to the Pew Research Center, 65 percent of American adults describe themselves as Christian.[1]

But all that means is that 167 million people, not counting children and teens, may or may not attend a weekly church meeting, may or may not worship God, may or may not pray, may or may not fast, may or may not share the gospel, may or may not even read the Bible, much less study it and much, much less cherish it.

Asked if they believe in God, 80 percent said yes. But when they were asked further if they believe in “God as described in the Bible,” only 56 percent of that 80 percent said yes. And only 43 percent of adults under 30 say they believe in the biblical God.[2]

So, if I say so and so is a Christian, what does that tell you?

Even people known for living what the world would consider a very “Christian” life may not necessarily be Christ-followers.

Doubleday’s Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light consists “primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years.”

Although perpetually cheery in public, the Teresa of the letters lived in a state of deep and abiding spiritual pain. In more than 40 communications, many of which have never before been published, she bemoans the “dryness,” “darkness,” “loneliness” and “torture” she is undergoing. She compares the experience to hell and at one point says it has driven her to doubt the existence of heaven and even of God.

We know what she wrote in her letters, but only God knows what is in her heart. Can she be a Christ-follower and not know it? Mother Teresa may merely struggle with her definition of salvation and what she expects of God. But that’s between them.

I’m simply explaining to you why I avoid the word Christian. Sadly, it has come to express as little clear meaning today as the word “love.”


[1] Vondracek, Christopher, “Number of Christians in U.S. has declined by 13 million since 2009, says Pew Research Center data, The Washington Times, 17 October 2019.

[2] “When Americans Say They Believe in God, What Do They Mean?” Pew Research Center, Religion and Public Life, 25 April 2018.