We’re all prone to “fan mentality.” It’s when you think or do something because of your attraction to an individual, brand, or style. For example, as a Cubs fan, I started watching Yankees games when Anthony Rizzo was traded there last July.
This fan mentality affects our interests in books, sports, merchandise, and more. But when applied to church, fan mentality undermines true Christian community.
There are many ways fan mentality conflicts with biblical ideas that belong to what we might call “flock mentality.” Here are three.
Choice vs. Call
With a fan mentality, one’s church involvement is often driven by an attraction to the pastor’s giftedness, the worship team’s vibe, or even the church’s theological distinctives. More often than not, if you join a church based on fan mentality, you’ll leave quickly when your favorite pastor retires or when you bore of the worship style.
Two important clarifications:
- The problem is not gifted pastors, theological distinctives, or good worship vibes. The problem is a Christian’s tying church attendance to personal preferences.
- The problem is not liking your pastor—he is, after all, God’s gift to your church (Eph. 4:11)—but placing yourself, and your “ideal pastor” preferences, as the central concern.
Fan mentality frames church in terms of personal choice. Flock mentality frames it in terms of calling. Fan mentality says choose the church with the most attractive person, style, or brand to you. Flock mentality says submit to God’s leading to the church you need. Church is about choice, but it’s about God’s choice to call you into his church—not your choice to pick a church that suits you.
Celebrity vs. Shepherd
The role of a pastor/shepherd is not to draw Christians to himself, but to point Christians to the true Shepherd (1 Pet. 2:25) and help build up the body so it may “grow in every way into him who is the head, into Christ” (Eph. 4:15). Ultimately, church is not about how great your pastor is, but how great God is.
Yet fan mentality is all too eager to cherish the greatness of individual men. It can make a near-divine image, a holy caricature, of a pastor. Viral YouTube sermons and bestselling book series can become idolatrous treasures for the fan who has staked a church choice on one man’s giftedness.
Flock-mentality members, in contrast, love their pastor not as a celebrity, but as someone who is one of them. They’re close enough to see his mistakes and hold him accountable; close enough to see his growth, and him theirs.
For this reason, the famous man preaching on your computer screen cannot be your main spiritual leader. The flock needs a physically present spiritual leader. Therefore, embrace a more incarnational form of spiritual leadership.
Spectating vs. Responsibility
You may consider me a bad sports fan, but I don’t enjoy Cubs baseball now that my favorite player is gone.
My relationship with the Cubs was based primarily on my fandom of Anthony Rizzo. When I attended games, I had no interest in hot dogs or the other fans around me. It was all about me watching Rizzo. This may be fine for a baseball game, but it does not work for the church.
In Ephesians 4:16, Paul explains that the growth of the church depends not only on the gifted leaders, but also on the gifts of the individual members of the body. The body of Christ is “held together by every joint with which it is equipped,” and it grows “when each part is working properly.”
Fan mentality deceives us into thinking we’re individual spectators in church. But the biblical ideal is different. Christ has given gifts “to each one of us” (Eph. 4:7), and the good works you can offer are not only wanted and needed for the growth of your church, but also prepared beforehand by God himself (Eph. 2:10).
Don’t let church become all about you watching the pastor. Embrace flock mentality and walk in your responsibilities of building up other members of the body, including both the sheep and the shepherd.
Be the Flock
The church is not a place we choose; it’s a place to which we’ve been called. We are called there not to cherish human fame, but to cherish Christ. And we’re called not to an individualized entertainment experience, but to use our gifts to build up the whole community.
Fan mentality is a widespread temptation—especially in a culture of consumerism and celebrity. But it’s deadly when we bring it to church. Instead of fans, let’s be the flock—gathering together out of reverence to the Shepherd and Overseer of our souls.