I was in a graduate class when I heard the Big Idea explained for the first time. The professor, Jim Pluddeman, challenged my classmates and me by saying that the Bible was written to be understood and applied. He said, “The effective teacher is like a person who takes a strong rope, ties one end around the big ideas of Scripture, ties the other end around the major themes of life, and then through the power of the Spirit struggles to pull the two together.” I was just beginning to understand that accomplishing the mission of Jesus would mean focusing on one Big Idea, not trying to juggle competing little ideas.
Jesus did not confuse people with a lot of little ideas. Instead, he presented one Big Idea with a clear call to action: “As Jesus wasbe accompanied by obedient action. We are implicitly telling our people that just because they hear the truth doesn’t mean they necessarily have to live it out. We are telling our people that what is really important is saying it and not doing it. walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. ‘Come, follow me,’ Jesus said, ‘and I will make you fishers of men.’ At once they left their nets and followed him” (Matt. 4:18 – 20).
I can’t help but notice that Jesus didn’t say to Peter and Andrew, “Come, be Christians.” Here’s how Don Everts puts it in a terrific little book titled Jesus with Dirty Feet:
Jesus was not a Christian.
He never asked anyone to become a Christian, never built a steepled building, never drew up a theological treatise, never took an offering, never wore religious garments, never incorporated for tax purposes.
He simply called people to follow him.
That, despite its simplicity, is it.
He called people to follow him. . . .
It is never morethan Jesus’ call: “Follow me”
and a response: dropping familiar nets
and following, in faith, this sandaled Jewish man.
It is never more than that.
Two thousand years of words can do nothing to the simple, basic reality of Christianity:
Those first steps taken by those two brothers.
Peter and Andrew’s theologywas as pure as it gets:
Jesus said, “Follow me.” And we did.
When Jesus met someone for the first time, he challenged them with one Big Idea: “Follow me.” A Big Idea that was simple but not easy. If Peter and Andrew were asked, “What did Jesus teach you today?” there is no way they would respond like this: (Silence.) “Ummm . . .” (More silence.) “Ummm . . .” (Still more silence.) “Ummm . . .” And if they did, it would not be because they were confused and didn’t understand, but rather because they were stunned at the boldness and size of Jesus’ request. This Big Idea was very clear, and the call to action could not be misunderstood. The simplicity and clarity of that Big Idea, “Follow me,” was what catalyzed a movement of Christ followers into action. And these Christ followers knew what was expected of them and would do anything and everything, including trade their very lives, to accomplish the mission of Jesus.
What about “deeper teaching”? That is what the rich young ruler wanted. He came to Jesus and began to explain that he already knew the commandments — “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:19) — and that he had obeyed these commands since he was a boy. He wanted more. He wanted boy. He wanted more. He wanted a midweek service. He wanted graduate-level teaching. With clarity and simplicity, Jesus challenged him with one Big Idea when he said, “One thing you lack. . . . Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me” (Mark 10:21). The message was clear. It was a call to action. It was a Big Idea that was simple but not easy.
When Jesus met
someone for the first
time, he challenged
them with one Big Idea:
What would happen if we challenged people in the same way? What if we gave people one clear and simple Big Idea and asked them to put it into action? That is exactly what we have been attempting to do at Community Christian Church and the NewThing Network for the last several years. Every week, we give all of our people of every age and at every location one Big Idea and ask them to put it into action. The challenge is simple and clear — but never easy. That’s the Big Idea.
Dave Ferguson, Jon Ferguson, and Eric Bramlett, The Big Idea: Focus the Message—Multiply the Impact (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009).