Four out of five Americans claim to be Christians. That's more than a quarter billion people in the United states alone who claim, in one way or another, to follow Jesus. But what does that really mean?
Is it more like a one-and-done deal, like lifetime membership in a club? Is it the default response when people ask about religion, just to play the odds and keep from having to deal with more questions of judgment? Is it about claiming a Holy Fire Insurance policy, or getting some reward after we die?
Like lots of other people, I grew up in church, then drifted away, and (like significantly fewer people) found my way back to a new understanding of Christian community. I've served as a worship leader, helped start a church and written eight books about the intersections of faith and popular culture. I'm supported by wife, Amy, though years of seminary, and I'm currently on staff at a church in downtown Portland. I fly around the country to talk about theology, Christian community and the future of the Christian faith. And yet, I feel like there's so much to this "following Jesus" thing that I'm still supposed to know, practice and live into.
That's why I started My Jesus Project, which is a year-long attempt to better understand what it means to really, deeply follow the life, teaching and example of Jesus through prayer, study and action. I spent four months before the project started assembling a community of mentors to help me explore twelve different dimensions of Jesus throughout the year, and I recently got the new site up and running.
This month I'm working with Christian anarchist Mark Van Steenwyk on "Jesus the Radical." Next month, Reba Riley will guide me through "Jesus the Ascetic," in which I'll fast all month, give away half of my belongings and some other things. It's already challenging me in unexpected, amazing and pretty exciting ways. But I'm convinced it's worth it, if for no other reason than to better understand what we're really talking about when we say we're Christians.
Now I'm inviting you to follow along in this journey too.
Check out the new website, add your name to the email list, or create your own profile so you can interact with me, my mentors, and post your own thoughts, experiences, questions (and even photos, videos, etc) as we explore this whole "following Jesus" thing together. Everyone will do it in their own way, but I've already received lots of notes from folks trying this out on their own, with small groups, their family or even an entire youth group.
For example, one goal I have is feeding 5,000 people. To do this, we started a "Trade Up" campaign, starting with six signed copies of my books. I traded that for a mountain bike, then for a book editing and design package, a custom website, and now we have a timeshare worth upwards of $9,000 to trade. We were aiming originally for $30,000, but we may just keep going with this to see how far we can take it. More trades means more people get fed, so why get in the way of a good thing? Oh, and if you have an idea for a trade, or a way to help spread the word, send me a message through the MyJesuProject site. Let's get creative!
Most important, please check out the new website, help spread the word through social media, and if you're up for it, join me by subscribing to the E-zine or creating your own My Jesus Project profile. The more people we get involved, the more interesting and transformative it can be.
This is a big leap for me, as a friend observed recently, from focusing on what we think and believe to looking more deeply at who we are and how we live. So I need your support to make it.
And who knows what the year will bring? Maybe you have some ideas to share of your own. Personally I can't wait to share this experience with my sisters and brothers of all beliefs, identities and backgrounds who are curious about what people mean when they claim to follow Jesus.
Let's try and figure this thing out together.