I am a self-avowed geek, and one of the things that I am consistently surprised by is the level of passion and love that other self-avowed geeks have for the things they love. I am blown away by the level of creativity that can be seen in fan art and fan fiction. I am in awe at the level of craftsmanship and attention to detail people can give to creating replicas of props or costumes from their favorite books, movies, or games. I am impressed by the level of dedication that super collectors show for assembling truly epic level collections of the thing they love. I am amazed at the study and discipline that some fans go to become fluent in Klingon or commit details like the crew complement of an Imperial Star Destroyer to memory.
It is not just Star Trek and Star Wars fans who take things to this degree. There are Disney fans, Harry Potter fans, and sports fans who take their love of something and turn it up to eleven. While, I personally do not reach their level of super fandom, I understand where they are coming from. To take being a fan to the lengths that many people do requires that they truly love it, that they are deeply passionate about it, and they are excited about it over the long haul. It is easy for us to roll our eyes at the people who love their football team so much that they attend games in below freezing weather without a shirt and covered in purple body paint or who take the time to sew a perfect recreation of a costume from a video game. However, I think as Christians we can learn from these super fans. Their love of their thing is evident, their passion is contagious, and their devotion is radical. We can learn from the super fans, because those descriptions should also be how we are able to describe our relationship with Christ.
What make something radical is that it goes above and beyond normal expectations. That is what makes the super-fans radical in their fandom. Not every Star Wars fan acquires their own Stormtrooper armor or tracks down every single Funko Pop figurine to display. The disciples of Jesus were radicals because they followed what the establishment considered a fringe rabbi. Unfortunately, when it comes to expressing a committed faith the bar has been lowered a good deal. In today’s context one of the ways we radically express our faith is just showing up and worshipping together. When polling is done and people are asked how often they attend a Sunday morning worship service, somewhere around 40% of respondents say they attend regularly. However, a study that tracked actual attendance numbers at thousands of churches, used a statistical model to show that on any given Sunday less than 18% of the American population is at a church worship service. The idea of regular church attendance has changed dramatically, and many have lamented even engaged and committed church members attend less Sundays a year than they used to. Today, attending just monthly is considered by many to be a regular attender. That is the standard for “regular”, which means gathering with the community of faith to praise and worship God more often is now radical.
More importantly than being radical the way that we express our faith should be passionate. Passionate faith is somewhat hard to define, and it is easier to define by what it is not. In his book Five Practices of Fruitful Congregations, Bishop Robert Schnase writes, “Without passion worship becomes dry, routine, boring, and predictable, keeping the form while lacking the spirit. Insufficient planning by leaders, apathy of worshipers . . .contribute to an experience that people approach with a sense of obligation rather than joy.”
Passionate worship is worship that is full of joy. When it comes to the super fans, the way they show their passion is through their investment and excitement. The super fans have fully bought into what they love, and they are always excited about it. These same two elements of investment and excitement should be seen in our faith.
We are invested in worship when we show up, not just physically but when we are fully present. We are invested when we put our phones or mental to-do list away and engage in the act of responding to who God is and what God has done. Even if we are unfamiliar with a song, or it is not our preferred style we still sing, as John Wesley instructed, “with a great courage. [Do not sing] as if you were half dead or half asleep.” We worship with excitement when we are excited to worship God.
That challenges us to ask ourselves, are you excited to worship and follow God? My follow up question is how could you not be? It is through worship we get to respond to God’s goodness and faithfulness. It is through worship that we explore the mystery of faith: Christ has died, Christ is risen, and Christ will come again. It is through worship we get to celebrate that our sins are forgiven, and it is through worship that we get to proclaim the miraculous truth: Our God is greater than all, yet still knows us each by name. How do you not find that exciting?
May you find the love of God to be exciting and may your own love of God be contagious to everyone you interact with. May your passion for your faith be evident to all who see you, and may your devotion to God, the creator of all, be radical.