Review of Not a Fan

Meet the Author

Kyle Idleman is the teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, KY, which is the fifth largest church in America.  After attending Ozark Christian College, he did an internship at Southeast Christian, planted Real Life Church in Southern California, and then returned to Southeast Christian in 2002.  Idleman is the author and presenter of the award winning video curriculum H2O: A Journey of Faith and The Easter Experience. His first book,  Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus, was published in May 2011.

Book Review

As one with responsibility for adult discipleship in a large theologically diverse congregation and someone who has written extensively about the centrality of Jesus in my own journey of faith (see my series “Who is Jesus?“), I was intrigued to read a book with the subtitle: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus.  Unfortunately, I am simply not a fan of Idleman’s Not a Fan.  Instead of providing substantive suggestions for living the way of Jesus, Idleman emphasizes the need for a faith that leads people to act irrationally: “Followers should have some crazy come after Jesus stories that make people say, That’s crazy” (p.132).  Idleman’s stories of fanaticism are a poor substitute for spiritual disciplines and engagement in the Christian community that serve followers well on the lifelong journey of faith.

So What? 

Idleman divides those who are interested in Jesus into two categories: fans and followers.  Alternatively, one might opt for labels like curious and committed or religious consumer and faithful disciple.

  • Do you understand think that those who are interested in Jesus fall into one of these two categories or do you understand these as points on a continuum of engagement? In which category or at what point on the continuum do you find yourself today?
  • How has your faith been enriched by radical decisions you have made in response to your understanding of Christian discipleship? by the regular practice of spiritual disciplines and engagement in a local Christian community/congregation?


Kyle Idleman.  Not a Fan: Becoming a Completely Committed Follower of Jesus (Zondervan, 2011).  ISBN: 9780310331933.


  1. I believe that the pursuit of Jesus or responding radically to His love is not fanaticism. Can not agree that this is a theme of the book as is described in the review. I think that “spiritual disciplines and engagement in a Christian community” is was is rightly being challenged in this book. Too many of us can apply ourselves in both arenas and miss Jesus altogether. What Idleman is challenging us is knowing God not first through our discipline and our involvement which is still self focused and more on Jesus alone and a passionate love for Him as a person that propels our action. These two can be confusing but the emphasis should be on our motivation. People in love do radical things for those they love. I think the point is made clear in the book and would encourage maybe another look at the central reality – It is not about us it is all about Jesus.

  2. I’ve seen some of “Not a Fan”, the video series, at my church. Not all that impressed as yet. It’s not that I disagree with the general premise that many church goers are mere bystanders and observers–what Idleman calls “fans”, though frankly, I don’t know if I’d even give them that much credit, at least a fan is generally enthusiastic. Nor do I take issue with the call to a more radical commitment from Christians. I’m in agreement there.

    My problem is with the general American hype that accompanies the program, it’s infused with the typical self-congratulatory attitudes that too often emanates from the pulpit. For example, when he describes someone who takes exception with his sermons, he dismissively describes how they “rambled” out their complaint. It just had a taint of sanctimony. In all candor, if anyone in the production rambled, it was Idleman.

    Not to mention the fact that Idleman is no actor. He’s Robo Pastor; he sounds depressed, in need of suicide watch. I found myself more sympathetic to the skeptical characters who doubted the pastor ‘s sincerity than the pastor himself. How many times have you felt mildly repulsed by a member of the clergy, jaded to suffering, full of self, cooly dismissive of anyone with whom they disagree? That would be Robo Pastor, aka Idleman, in this production. He comes across as insincere and aloof; when he fields the call that informs him a good friend/parishoner is on life support, he has all the passion and empathy of the officer who asks you for your license and registration. I swear, if I heard “I’m sorry for your loss” delivered once more in that flat monotone, I think I’d have walked out of the sanctuary. Worse yet, “Not a Fan” promotes fandom of the program, i.e., you can buy “Not a Fan” t-shirts and other parephenalia, thus indicating, apparently, that you’re a “fan” of Not a Fan! Typical pastoral hubris, but not typical of one who is Not a Fan.

  3. Eric Gargus says:

    So I don’t buy many Christian books, and prefer doing my own research when teaching/preaching. I “get” Kyle Idleman in this book. Those concerned about ear-tickling and “feel-good” faith can’t handle this type book. It makes them uncomfortable. Perhaps when people overcome resentment for someone actually writing a book that challenges apathy from a Biblical perspective, the Gospel will be advanced more mightily. I like a good challenge and wake up call. Most teens today do too.

  4. okay, so i sell books for a living. in a church bookstore. fulltime. and i’m the buyer. every so often i come across a book that I think is going to have great promise, full of hope and the idea that selling the book might help in forming a person’s understanding of God and the gospel is a very exciting proposition. i need to read the book, but on a cursory examination, i have actually pulled it off the shelf. it appears to be a book that offers the Law as the antedote to our problems. but, i will read it and submit a review. any others out there struggling with the same on this title? I also appreciate the initial post’s note regarding the author’s comment “Followers should have some crazy come after Jesus stories that make people say, That’s crazy” (p.132). That is an indefensible point to make so boldly, on the part of mr. idleman.

  5. We are currently on chapter #4 and I have serious concerns about Mr Idleman’s teaching. He claims that Jesus was upset with the people coming to hear him preach, especially when large crowds were involved. Says they were coming just to be fed, entertained, and watch miracles. But he offers no proof of any kind. I can find no such reference, instead finding passages that show the people coming to hear him were showing great faith and simply wanted to learn more.
    It makes you stop and think twice about the author. If he is willing to “guild the lily” once, will he do t again. And for whhat purpose?
    There is lot of thought provoking material in this book, just a shame Mr Idleman needs to go over the top to sell his ideas.

  6. Donald says:

    Mr. Idleman’s resemblance to Ron Howard I find distracting, although I can’t blame Mr. Idleman or Ron Howard for that. Something about his perpetual smile and his dreamy-eyed innocence that is way too all-American to get past my defenses.

    Type casting aside, I can’t help feeling that Martin Luther would have his stomach in knots with this book, for the same reason Luther couldn’t stand the letter of James. Mr. Idleman’s whole premise seems to be that Christianity is a religion of requirements that must be lived up to in order to “get into heaven.” Luther’s whole premise was that it is not. Does Mr. Idleman have any place for grace?

    Even that aside, I am even more troubled by the lack of content given to “full commitment,” at least so far, in Not a Fan. Is his “full commitment” – assuming there is such a thing – simply a change of identity, or does it have any actual content? I keep listening for hints about what a “fully committed” life would look like, and I don’t hear any substantial answer. How would a fully committed person, for example, vote? What would fully committed politics look like?

    I also resist the idea of analogizing Jesus to a jealous, possessive, OCD woman, a kind of spider devouring flies. . Can’t we do better than this?

  7. aaron corley says:

    I disagree with the premise of this book. Either a believer is a follower or a fan of Jesus.
    I disagree because ;

    Every person either knows Jesus as Lord and Savior or they do not. Each believer is to bear fruit. Some bear alot of fruit and some bear minimal fruit. I also think its a bit dangerous comparing your walk with Jesus with another persons….. It leads a person to a spirit of discontentment.. Each person ‘s walk looks different. I am challenged to read through the book… because I completely disagree with the premise…

    Each beleiver is

  8. Donna Riegler says:

    I attend a church that has gone bonkers over this book. They study it in the morning worship service, as well as on Sun. and Wed. night Bible studies. Never knew anyone to get this excited over the actual Bible. They act as if the author is God himself. I don’t need any human to tell me how to live – the Bible says it all, and my praise and thanks are to God and God alone.

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