Preparing for my Fall speaking schedule, I ordered some shirts and emblazoned them with the words, “First Faith,” a reminder of my mission to emulate the faith of those who first followed Jesus.
This mission is not some, “Oh, that’s nice; let’s try harder to be good Christian people.” No, this is about focusing on what the apostles thought was most important, on how they communicated their simple message and truly attempting to live–in a 21st century way–the life they lived.
Their statement of belief–I believe–was far simpler than what many of us, me included, believe today. For some reason, we somehow need advanced degrees to truly grasp what they taught. Why is that? While scholarship can be good, it can also be debilitating if we don’t watch out.
I can never forget–and I’ll write this again and again–those who most effectively advanced this faith were mostly fisherman, perhaps even illiterate when compared to us. Maybe I need to know less if I’m to share my faith effectively.
Enough explanation; you probably get the point and I need to move on to the point of this.
So, I got these shirts and had “First Faith” placed right above the pocket. I wanted them to be a conversation starter, to see what might happen.
Something I never considered took place instead.
Getting on the Hertz bus on the way to the St. Louis airport, I tossed my bag on the bus and someone said, “Are you a preacher?” At first I had no idea she was talking to me. Then it hit me; the shirt.
I said no, I wasn’t, but tossed out a (hopefully) funny comment to keep things light. But I was thinking.
After landing in Minneapolis I grabbed my rental car (Hertz again–these promos are free, Mr. Hertz) and on the way out as I handed my license to the guy at the gate he asked, “Are you a minister?”
I still didn’t have a good reply, but at least I remembered why I bought the shirt. “I’m sort of an evangelist,” I said. Perhaps that was better, I don’t know. I was trying.
What’s funny is, I bought the shirts to engage people in conversations about faith. But when two someones engaged me, I didn’t know what in the world to say. But, I’m working on it. The first part of solving a problem is recognizing you have a problem, right? So, I’m recognizing.
And I realized something else. If wearing those shirts made some people believe I’m a pastor–or at least, a Christian–I’ve got something to uphold.
When I walk through an airport in a casual button-down oxford, no biggie. No one cares who I am and my behavior is overlooked. If I’m a jerk, I’m an anonymous one. I know God sees, but still.
But when I’m wearing a shirt that says “First Faith” people expect something. I’m not sure what yet, but something. I have a standard to live up to.
As I talked to others in the gate area, bought my lunch and walked past people on their way to gates, I felt an obligation to be more than just another guy among fellow travelers.
Thinking about it though, I’m reminded that today, Christianity is common. Yes, I know we are in a “post Christian culture” in the U.S., but churches are everywhere. It’s hardly uncommon to find those who claim some form of Christianity.
Those early followers didn’t have this luxury. When they were baptized, they were suddenly under intense scrutiny from others in their communities. They were claiming something quite different than the established cultural norm, and it was new.
Everyone was watching. How would they act? How were they different? Were they truly living out the teachings of the Jesus they claimed to follow?
Talk about pressure. But because so many stood strong under the scrutiny, many more came to believe.
They had to be different, and they were. As I mentioned in another post, they couldn’t slap a Christians Aren’t Perfect, Just Forgiven bumper sticker on their donkeys.
My experiment with my shirts then, taught me a lesson. If you wear it, you’d darned sure better live it.
So when I head back to Nashville, I’ll put on my First Faith shirt again, because maybe I could use more scrutiny.
And if I live up to my shirt, it might start a few conversations. Who knows? This 1stFaith thing might start catching on after all.