‘From a Church-Goer to a Christ-Follower’

Dease on Jesus’ lessons for his people

By Jessica Brodie

“‘How can this be?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘You are Israel’s teacher,’ said Jesus, ‘and do you not understand these things?’”—John 3:9-10

NORTH CHARLESTON—It’s not enough to be a churchgoer. You have to be a full-fledged Christ-follower or risk losing everything in the final analysis.

That was the word from Dr. Robin Dease, Hartsville District superintendent, who led a Bible study on “From a Church-Goer to a Christ-Follower” June 4 at the Southeastern Jurisdiction United Methodist Women quadrennial meeting. Drawing from John 3, Jesus’ lessons to the Pharisee Nicodemus and the Scripture behind this year’s meeting theme, “A Fresh Wind Blowing,” Dease said that Nicodemus was an upstanding church leader, the kind of man you’d make a church trustee. But what Nicodemus learns from Jesus is that his impeccable moral and religious standards are not going to be enough enter the Kingdom of God. It will take a full spiritual rebirth.

“Hear me, brothers and sisters—going to church is not going to save you,” Dease proclaimed to resounding applause. “The devil goes to church. The devil believes in God. But the devil does not worship God.”

When we worship God, cultivate a relationship with His son, Jesus, and let the Holy Spirit have its way with us and truly become born again, Dease said, only then do we have any chance of getting into Heaven.

“Jesus said, ‘All of you need to be born again,’” Dease said, noting that Jesus said church membership, charity gifts, community involvement and other good acts mean nothing in the big picture. “None of it counts unless you are born again.”

Dease noted that the very concept of the Holy Spirit and its power in our lives continues to confound people today. She said that “spirit” in Greek and Latin means “breath” or “wind,” and in John 3, Jesus encourages the kind of spiritual transformation that will change lives forever.

“Being a churchgoer is easy—you can attend 20, 30, 40, even 50 years and not have a relationship with Jesus,” Dease said. But when we are born again, she said, “We must become a new creature, entirely different than we were before. I believe the Holy Spirit brings us to our senses and moves us to a progressive state of effectiveness.”

And ultimately, she said, to becoming a Christ-follower.

“Christ-followers are less concerned about being in the church and more concerned about being the church,” Dease said.

Today, as the church and its people struggle with what she called bitter debates about sexuality, abortion and who can lead, Dease said she thinks it all comes down to fear. But when we allow God to lead and truly follow Christ—and truly let the Holy Spirit do its work—then we can push that fear aside and start doing the real work of the Kingdom.

“I’m just going to open the door so the fresh wind can blow in,” Dease said, closing her study to a standing ovation.

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