I have given everyone in my family a nickname. So if you hang around our house long enough, you’ll hear me refer to “Bud,” “Pook,” and “T.” Somehow having nicknames marks the special relationship we have. We do the same within Christianity. We have the general term “Christian” that is used by those inside and outside of Christianity. But for those within the Christian community, we have another vocabulary to talk about ourselves. One of the key nicknames for us insiders is “believer,” which was used frequently in the New Testament. In church circles, it is used in a variety of ways. People talk about who is a believer and who is not, or they may refer to worship as the gathering of believers. Personally, I don’t like to use this term because its meaning has shifted over time. In contemporary use, it means whether one assents to the dogma of Christianity. Therefore it is more descriptive of one’s intellectual position than it is a way of life. In early Christianity, it also included the notion that to believe is to give one’s heart to someone or something, and this implies a trust in who or what one follows. Whatever we call each other, this quality needs to be captured.
As I think about internal nicknames for the Christian community, I like another biblical reference: followers. I know it is not very catchy, like “J-man” or “G-dawg,” but it represents something important. To be followers of Christ moves us beyond intellectual positions and speaks of the orientation and direction of our lives. It speaks of a shared journey, learning, growth, detours, trust, and relationships. It describes the dynamic quality of being people of the Way, the way of Christ.