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Faith Matters: To ‘Friend’ or to ‘Follow’

  • Athol Congregational Church. Recorder Staff/PAUL FRANZ

  • The Family and Outreach Pastor Candice Ashenden in front of the Athol Congregational Church. She is also the Senior Pastor at The United Congregational Church of Conway. May 2, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Family and Outreach Pastor Candice Ashenden in front of the Athol Congregational Church. She is also the Senior Pastor at The United Congregational Church of Conway. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • The Family and Outreach Pastor Candice Ashenden in front of the Athol Congregational Church. She is also the Senior Pastor at The United Congregational Church of Conway. May 2, 2018 Recorder Staff/Paul Franz



Family and Outreach Pastor, Athol Congregational Church, andSenior Pastor, United Congregational Church of Conway
Friday, May 04, 2018

(Each Saturday, a faith leader in Franklin County offers a personal perspective in this space. To become part of this series, email religion@recorder.com or call 413-772-0261, ext. 265.)

Jesus said, “Come, follow me.” Sounds simple, doesn’t it? But what does the word “follow” really mean? The dictionary definition is “go or come after.” So, technically, it simply means to traipse after someone, to take the same path. But Christians expand their understanding of this word to mean patterning ourselves after, striving to be like, being part of Jesus’ inner group. For faith communities, the word “follow” is a packed one.

The phrase “follow me” is one of the great lines of the New Testament. Hardly a soul, whether one goes to church or not, does not know that Jesus offered us all this invitation. But how do we decide if we should? What is it about a life of faith that compels us to CHOOSE to follow him and to keep following him?

Perhaps there is some advice we can glean from our current social media culture. When we first join Facebook, we begin to gather “friends.” We send out friend requests and we accept them. In the beginning, this was the only way to connect with folks on Facebook. But, as time went on, many of us found ourselves connected with folks we don’t really know, or people we wanted to connect with once for some particular reason, and then their stories and lives filled our FB feed. Customers complained that this was too much, so Facebook created an additional option: now we can choose who we “follow.” We can keep all our friends (no need to unfriend them and risk upsetting them or losing touch entirely); we can remain “friends,” but we can choose who we follow.

Following someone on FB means that they stay in the forefront, their messages pop up regularly, and it is hard to forget about them. We know what they are doing, who they are with, what is important to them, and often what they are thinking about. In contrast, those whom we merely friend, but don’t follow, will remain in the background, and be there only if we seek them out.

I think FB is very illustrative of the difference between “friending” and “following.” Jesus calls us to follow, not merely to “friend” him. I think many in our churches merely “friend” Jesus, but we are called to do more. We are called not to just know Jesus is out there to tap into whenever we feel like it, but rather we are called to regularly pay attention to what Jesus is saying, to his actions in the world, and to where God may be leading us now.

Are you looking to learn about the ways of God? Are you seeking to see examples from Jesus’ life that help inform your decisions along life’s journey? Are you yearning for inspiration and motivation, or for proof that living a life of faith is “worth it” and will ultimately bring you joy? If so, then you DO want to follow Jesus.

At Athol Congregational Church, we don’t simply put Jesus on our list of “friends,” but rather, we strive to actively follow him. We want Jesus to keep popping up … to be present when we least expect him … to appear with messages of hope and encouragement, and examples of wisdom. We say, “Yes, I will follow you” to Jesus so that he will know that he is near and dear to our hearts and that we are choosing daily to look for and listen to his messages.

“Follow me,” said Jesus, and I will teach you how to live your faith in such a powerful and meaningful way that you will attract others who desire to join you on your journey.

“Follow me,” Jesus says, and in time your life and example will be so faithful that others will begin to follow you, too.

“Follow me,” says Jesus to each of us now. Many of us have friended Jesus, now let us click the “follow” button of our hearts. And if you want to join other followers, members of Athol Congregational Church would love to meet you.

About Athol Congregational Church

Athol Congregational Church, United Church of Christ, is a community church that offers an extravagant welcome to all. Located at 1225 Chestnut St., by the common in uptown Athol, we worship together on Sundays at 10 a.m. From September to June, a free breakfast for all children and teens is served from 9:30 to 10 a.m. Our ministry team consists of senior pastor, Rev. Dr. Beverly Prestwood-Taylor, and Family and Outreach Pastor, Rev. Dr. Candi Ashenden. Our Church School offers nursery care, as well as interactive classes for children ages 3 to 18 in which children learn about the Bible through hands-on activities including crafts, computer games, puppets and maps. We host a free Community Meal on the first Friday of the month from September through May. For questions, contact us at accuccoffice@gmail.com or call 978-249-6202. We would love to have you join us!