What It Means to be a Christian (Casual Christian Part 1)

This is the first message in the series, “I Don’t Want to be a Casual Christian.”  Certain pieces of information have been changed for the sake of certain individual’s confidentiality. May the Lord bless your life!

Working with residential facility teens has challenged my Christianity as nothing has (explain).

I wrote this in February. Now I don’t journal.  It’s just not something I am disciplined enough to do.   I just wrote this note: “I am not challenged by believers.  I am continually challenged by unbelievers and seekers.  It is people who are wondering, not who have got it that challenges my thinking and ability, my Christianity and faith.”

  • It’s not that I have to be on top of my game (which of course I do)
  • It’s that my Christianity has to be real and valid.


June 6, 2010, Dana Key died suddenly at age 56.  A blues guitarist from Memphis, Tennessee and one of Christian music’s most formidable artists, Dana was sold out to God. His life and ministry were purely about Jesus Christ. The few last years that D&K toured together, Josh McDowell (Evidence that Demands a Verdict) toured with them and they gave away NIV Teen Bibles. They were worked together to encourage young people to get into the word of God.

Dana wrote a song which they recorded in the early 80’s entitled Casual Christian.  In my estimation, that song epitomizes Dana Key’s life and ministry. He lived it.  He didn’t want to be a Casual Christian.   He wanted to be alive, valid, true, and real.

The chorus of the song goes like this: I don’t wanna be, don’t wanna be a casual Christian.  I don’t wanna live; don’t wanna live a lukewarm life.  Cause I want to light up the night, with an everlasting light.  I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life.

Contemplating Dana Key’s life, his ministry, and his message prompted this series of messages called “I Don’t Want to be a Casual Christian.”  I’d like to share them with you and encourage you through them.  Let me give you just a glimpse.

We will look at the three major forms of casual Christianity…

  • The Christian Atheist
  • The Cultural Christian
  • The Lukewarm Christian
  • And we will conclude with the all-encompassing answer to all of this.

But first, what does it mean to be a casual Christian?  Let me help you with that by giving you examples of how that may look in a Christian’s life.

The casual Christian takes the things of God for granted!

  • The casual Christian takes the Bible for granted and doesn’tspend time in the Bible reading, studying, or meditating on it. So . . . they have not knowledge of God’s word nor do they experience it, and they allow others, usually preachers, pastors, teachers, and the internet to tell them what it says and means, and they choose to believe and follow what they like and want and feel instead of the whole word of God.
  • The casual Christian takes Church fellowship for granted.  They see Church membership and church attendance as optional and so they are usually disconnected from the church and are easy prey for the devil by means of the ways of the world.
  • The casual Christian takes prayer for granted. They rarely pray.  They may say prayers at church, they possibly pray before meals, and they will pray when something horrible is happening in their life, they pray as if it doesn’t mean anything. It is not communication with God, and when they do pray, it is a request form submitted to the catalog operator in the sky. “God I want this, give me that.”
  • The casual Christian takes Christianity for granted.  And they easily compromise their values because their Christianity is not set on a firm foundation.  Their choices are not based on Scripture or by Christian thinking, or even by a simplistic form of WWJD (What Would Jesus Do?).  Whatever they think, whatever they want, they do.  So it is easy to be trapped in sinful thinking and activity.
  • They haven’t given themselves completely to Christ.

I hope this is not how you are, because if you are, you are a casual Christian and that’s bad.

Recently, there have been a number of troubling trends in our society among Christians.  The scripture tells us to be aware of what is going on around us.  Understanding the times we live in, is crucial!

The Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life took a U.S. knowledge survey which was published September 28, 2010.  Let me quote some pertinent evidence to you of how causal Christians are now.

First paragraph.  “Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons are among the highest scoring group on a new survey of religious knowledge, outperforming evangelical Protestants, mainline Protestants, and Catholics on questions about the core teachings, history, and leading figures of major world religions.”

The last line of the second paragraph.  “Atheists and agnostics, Jews and Mormons perform better than other groups on the survey even after controlling for differing levels of education.”

Later in the study they note: “Mormons are the highest-scoring group on questions about the Bible.”

And atheists and agnostics, the group least likely to know much about religion and the Bible, know more than Catholics and Protestant Christians.

How embarrassing.  What is wrong with us?  The poll only asked about 15 questions.  And Christians in Protestant churches, which is the category we (“we” referring here to the Christian Churches and Churches of Christ) would fit in according to the Pew Forum designation, scored very low.  We don’t know our stuff!

The Barna research group found in 2010 and 2011 that most Americans call themselves spiritual people, but there is little spiritual transformation.  It does not happen or it does not last.  The study noted that the barriers to transformation included lack of commitment, unwillingness to repent, confusing activity for growth and failure to engage in genuine accountable community (being a regular, active part of a church).

Most of the religious beliefs and behaviors and expectations that define a person’s life have been developed AND embraced by age 13.  By the time they are 8, their worldview has been established.  So by the time they are 13 their view about religion is already set in place and rarely does it change.  In fact, less than 1% of people, once they become adults ever change their religious way of thinking, their religious views, or their religious beliefs.

Whoa!  Where are we at as Christians?  WE DON’T WANT TO BE CASUAL CHRISTIANS!  Where the power of God is not alive in our lives and our church!  Where we sit back and do nothing.  Where when judgment day comes, God’s judgment against us is not what we expected.

I can’t count the number of times someone has said this about a family member or friend who didn’t attend church, who didn’t live by faith, who by their actions showed they were not a follower of Jesus Christ; “at least they’ve been baptized.”  Baptism means nothing without faith and repentance and transformation.

I can’t count the number of times I have visited people that have missed church and they give excuse after excuse for not being in church.  They forget I’m not the judge.  God is.  I am God’s servant trying to discern where their faith is so I can encourage them on to faith and good deeds.


That is the question we must begin with.  It is where we start and continue.  We start in the book of Luke.

LUKE 9:18-27; 18 Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them,“Who do the crowds say I am?”  “19 They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.”  20 “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”    Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” 21 Jesus strictly warned them not to tell this to anyone. 22 And he said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self? 26 Whoever is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.    27 “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the the kingdom of God.”

To help us remember we have A B & C.


“Man, this person Jesus is a hard person to get to know and understand.  Who is he really?”

That’s what was happening in Jesus’ day.  People were trying to wrap their minds about who he really is.  Is he from God?  Is he God’s Messiah?  And if so, what does that mean?

Up to this point so far in Jesus’ life and ministry, the consensus has been that he is one of the prophets, or embodies the spirit and nature of one of the prophets.   Even Herod the tetrarch, hearing about Jesus’ activity thought that John the Baptist, who was regarded as a prophet, that he had beheaded had returned from the dead (Lk. 9:7-9).

So when Jesus asked his disciples, they told him what people were thinking.  He is one of the prophets like Elijah, or John the Baptist.

The question of who Jesus is, is crucial to all things.  We can ask that question now and get a lot of different responses than the even disciples had encountered.

  • He was a great man, a good person, a moral teacher, a devote Jew, a holy man, but, he was just a man.
  • If he was real, he seems to be ok.  A lot of people like his teaching on love and not judging others (though their understanding of Jesus’ teaching is wrong).
  • Some believe he is a myth, but that’s ok if we wish to personify a myth.  Other religions do the same sort of things.
  • Some think he was a prophet, just like the people in Jesus’ day.
  • The Jews still don’t believe he is the Messiah.  Some recognize his prophetic ministry and teaching, but he wasn’t the Messiah
  • There are many more ways that Jesus is perceived.

I have to acknowledge Christ.  I have seen him for who he really is.  So many people believe that all religions have the same validity.  No single one has the only truth. There are many ways to salvation through this or that religion.  Jesus is just one of those ways.

Do you want me to go on?  When I as a Christian follower of Jesus Christ see him as less than he is, than my faith is going to be faulty.  I will slip into some form of casualness in my Christianity and become a lump on a log for Christ and the church.  And that’s not a good thing.  Because lumps are useless and troublesome and often times toxic.

I have to acknowledge Jesus’ true identity.  If I don’t it won’t matter.  No conversion and transformation will ever truly occur in my life.


Nearly every time I have baptized someone, their statement of faith was similar to Peter’s response to Jesus. You likely said when you were baptized.  “I believe that Jesus is the Chris the Son of the Living God.”

But let me ask you.  What type of Christ is Jesus?  What were you confessing?

We all know about the Jewish belief in the Messiah.  They believed he would be militant, powerful, political, and bring them riches.

A very worldly view of the Messiah with no basis in OT history or OT prophecy.  A total misunderstanding of the Messiah.  Jesus could heal the injured, so in battle, he could keep the fighting troops in good shape.  He could raise the dead, so he would raise them back to life if they were killed in battle.  It would be an unconquerable situation.  He can control the weather and cause it to benefit whatever we need it to do.  With this type of Messiah, we can’t lose.

What are your conceptions about Jesus?  Where did you get your perception about Jesus Christ?  From a preacher?  From a friend?  Out of a book?  On the internet?  Or from the Bible?

Peter’s confession was accurate.  Jesus is the one God sent.  He is the Messiah.

I recommend that you pay attention to research done by Pew Research, Barna Research Group, and others who poll and study the beliefs and trends in our society today.  To understand what’s happening around us.  To be prepared to deconstruct their argument with facts and truth.

CNN, Fox News, ABC and NBC aren’t going to tell you anything, or not much and it will be tainted by whatever bias they hold.

Watch this video call “Who is Jesus? by Chip Ingram by clicking on the YouTube link.


This is the most important understanding in the world.  Jesus is the Christ.


Let’s see here.  How many of you have a Jesus fish on the back of their car?  How many wear a cross on a chain around their neck?  How many wear Christians T-shirts and clothing?  How many wear a WWJD bracelet or a “True Love Waits” ring?

If you do, join the club.  And that’s pretty much what it is, a club.  It’s not the church and a lot of people who have these religious things aren’t even Christian or don’t live as Christians.

Look at all the rappers with their big huge crosses around their neck singing about sex as if any form is ok with God.  Or as one person I encountered, wearing a Christian T-shirt and I asked her about her faith and she was not a believer.  She bought the shirt at a thrift store.  It meant nothing more than clothing to her.

A lot of people actually acknowledge who Jesus is.  Fewer people believe in who Jesus is.  And still fewer people commit themselves to Jesus.  Total commitment, complete surrender.

We live in a non-committal society.  For the first time ever, and this statistic comes from a secular source  (if I remember correctly, I found this stat on MSN).  There are more single people than married people in our country.  51% of adults are unmarried.  One of the major reasons for this is that they are co-habiting, shacking up, living together, but not married.

People don’t want to commit too much of anything.  Yet we are called to commit everything to Christ.  And here’s how.

Deny Yourself – Hard to do.  Difficult to accomplish.  The world says fulfill yourself.  Anything goes.  Be your own person.  Take it, have it, enjoy it.  Life is too short to deny yourself what you want and can have.

Denying self means more than sacrificing this or that pleasure.  It means that in everything, in my heart, minds, and soul, in what I think, feel, and do, with what I have and the decisions I make, it is because I belong to Christ.  Not to me.  Remember, you were bought with a price, you are not your own @ 1 Corinthians 7:23.

Just like a slave, you were purchased, not with money, but with Jesus’ blood.  And slaves have no rights.  Nothing they do is for themselves, but for their lords.  Jesus is your Lord.  Give it all up to him and follow him.

Take up your Cross . . . daily.  This isn’t, I was baptized and so, well things will always be like this.  This is every day you submit yourself Christ.  The cross is not some difficulty, it is death.  I am dead to the world and I am dead to self, but I am alive in Christ.  It is not, “My wife’s a nag.  It’s my cross to bear.”  Or, “My boss is a jerk, that’s my cross to bear.”  It is, I have died to everything in the world and I am now alive in Christ.

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. @Galatians 2:20

The cross was an object of shame, torture, and death.  You will be persecuted for Christ.  You are dead to the world.  Take up your cross like Jesus did and live for him.  You choose to remain dead to sin, dead to self.

Follow Jesus – What Jesus wants, I want.  What Jesus does, I will do.  What Jesus says, I will obey.  What Jesus thinks become my thoughts.

Be like the 144,000 in Revelation 14.   These are those who did not defile themselves with women, for they remained virgins. They follow the Lamb wherever he goes. They were purchased from among mankind and offered as first fruits to God and the Lamb. No lie was found in their mouths; they are blameless. @Revelation 14:4-5

They followed the Lamb.

A few years ago, Franklin Graham was in a cab when he asked the driver about his faith.  The driver said he was a Christian.  Graham asked the driver how he became a Christian.  The driver replied, “I was born a Christian.”

It is impossible to be born a Christian.  Because I was born to a Christian family does not make me a Christian.  Just because my family is Christian, I am not automatically a Christian.

I must be reborn.  Until I believed in Jesus and committed my life to him and was baptized, I was not a Christian and neither are you.

The invitation has two elements today.

First, for those who are not Christian, who have not yet accepted Jesus Christ and been baptized, Jesus is offering you life like no other.  To be free from sin and the guilt of sin and the condemnation of sin.  To be filled with God’s Spirit.  Given new life.  Abundant life now and eternal life when Jesus returns.

Do you believe in Jesus Christ?  Do you believe that Jesus is God’s Son who died to pay the penalty for your sins?  Don’t wait another moment, when we sing our invitation, come and confess Jesus, repenting of your sin and you will be immersed for your salvation.

But for you Christians.  I have a challenge.  You may need to repent of being a casual Christian.  You may need to recommit, to rededicate yourself to the life you received when you were baptized.

Look deep in your life.  Pray for guidance right now.  Ask God for understanding and conviction.

The casual Christian will sluff it off.  I’m ok without thinking a thing about it.  But, are you truly committed to Christ?  What decision are you going to make?


Don’t Stop the Music; Dana Key

I have been a huge Dana Key fan. In fact, I still listen to D&K and Dana’s solo projects regularly. June 6, 2010, Dana died from a ruptured blood clot at the age of 56. He was a sold-out man of God. He possessed incredible musical skills and a true heart for God. I found this blog post on the blog “The Word of Todd.” He was impressed and inspired by Dana Key’s ministry through D&K. Read the following link. I agree 100% with Todd.



Dana Key 1954-2010

A lot of Christians including myself are in mourning.  One of the greatest of all musicians has died, Dana Key.  He was a guitar player, songwriter, singer, band leader, preacher, and someone who was totally sold out to Christ.

I saw Degarmo & Key in concert more than any other band or artist and they rocked.

The first time I saw D&K was in Tulsa at the ORU Mabee center and they were recording their first live album.  I watched Dana Key play as if Eric Clapton had become a Christian.  Every time D&K performed they rocked, but more than that, their passion for Christ was out there.

They preached but weren’t preachy.  After most of the concerts I saw, Dana would come out, sit on the edge of the stage and just talk about each person’s need to know Christ.  Dana’s Memphis tinged blues/rock and smoky voice hit you in the heart.  You were drawn into Christ as if you couldn’t resist.

This Time Thru; 1978

I was in college when the first D&K album, “This Time Thru” came out.  I saw the album and the cover caught my attention and then the name of the band was intriguing.  A great album and the song “Emmanuel” has been a 30-plus year favorite of mine.  I still have it on vinyl.

D&K were the first Christians to be rejected by MTV.  Their video of the “666” was too scary because supposedly the flames behind the devil character that seemed to all but engulf the guy.  They redid that part of the video ( http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=Z7Cdxl4INfw ).

Dana Key was passionate about Christ.  Read this article and hear what Toby Mac, Todd Agnew and others had to say about Dana – http://blog.christianitytoday.com/ctentertainment/2010/06/rip-dana-key-1.html.  Even his solo albums, were all about Jesus.

In the last years that D&K toured together, they brought Francis Schaefer along and promoted the NIV Student Bible.  They worked hard to get people into the Word.  I suppose that’s why he became a pastor of TLC church in Cordova, TN.

I love all their songs.  But I believe one song in particular is the definitive song expressing exactly who Dana was.  Casual Christian. “I don’t wanna be, I don’t wanna be a casual Christian.   I don’t wanna live, I don’t wanna live a lukewarm life.  Cause I wanna light up the night with an everlasting light.  I don’t wanna live a casual Christian life.”

I thank God for Dana Key, his faith and his passion.  He has affected my faith as much as any person.


PS: Todd Agnew’s tribute to Dana Key, http://toddagnew.com/2010/06/07/one-step-closer-the-passing-of-dana-key/