When we anthropologically study Christianity in modernity, one move that we see time and again is the line drawn between following Jesus and the membership in the church. Two ways this plays out come to mind.
The first is the critique of people who read the Bible and go to church but do not, for all intents and purposes, act like Jesus. The distinction between Jesus and churchiness is drawn usually appears in moments where a party personally feels discriminated by a Christian.
The other instance is the quote attributed to Gandhi: “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I see this referenced in wide-scale denouncements of the church and its bureaucratic policies and social practices.
I think both examples nicely represent a rather old question that Christians in every era must address: what’s it mean to be a follower of Jesus?
A fall back answer to this may be “going to church.” But as we’ll see, even the notion of “church” is more complicated than we realize. The model of “disciple” or student seems to be important in the New Testament, but as you read Daniel Lynwood Smith, write a 250-word essay detailing what discipleship looks like in the ancient source to which you’re introduced.