GUEST POST: Follow Jesus — but where and why?

By David White

This writing comes as I embark on another eight-session facilitation of A Jesus Worldview: Seeing Through the Eyes of Jesus for a community-based Sunday School group. It will be my eighth time around. 

“Embark” feels like the appropriate word. If I’ve learned anything from engaging this topic with groups, it is that I have no idea where the discussions will go. 

I feel a bit like Brendan of Clonfert who climbed into a keelless boat and traveled at the mercy of the winds in search of the Isle of the Blessed (Navigatio, The Voyage of Saint Brendan).

Or perhaps like the three Irish monks who were discovered off the coast of Cornwall, England, in a boat with no oars or rudder. 

“We stole away because we wanted for the love of God to be on pilgrimage, we cared not where,” the monks confessed.

In 21st century Johns Creek, Georgia, I have a boat, a keel and a rudder. I have an outline and a plan. But I don’t have control.

Generally, I begin these sessions by pointing out how lazily assumptive we tend to be when it comes to following in the Way of Jesus. Then I assertively introduce the central question to be chased for the next eight weeks:

“Is it possible that you are not as proximate to Jesus as you assume?” 

Put another way, “Is it possible that your faith life has become so rote, so routine, so habitual, so biased, so unattended that you are actually nowhere near the Way of Jesus?” 

Or as John Pierce would ask, “Where is Jesus?” 

That central question is jolting to nearly everyone and downright offensive to many — including myself.

During the first session or two, I continue to poke the bear — asking, “What does it even mean to follow Jesus? Just what is a disciple and how is that different from being Christian?

“Is Jesus really Lord?”

Continuing to sow seeds of discomfort I will ask, “Follow Jesus where, exactly?” Invariably someone will say or sing, “Wherever he leads, I’ll go.”

Then I raise the “why” question: “Why follow Jesus anyway?” 

I have learned to prepare myself for the “to qualify for heaven” answer that always follows.

After we are all squirming sufficiently, I offer a proposition that we join together in stripping away the trappings and trimmings of our current, assumptive understanding of what it means to follow Jesus and — together — rebuild it from the ground up. 

We explore how to follow Jesus in the way Jesus invited us to follow. It makes for a lively eight weeks.

Lately, when paying closer attention to my own spiritual formation, I keep coming back to the “where” and “why” questions of following Jesus.

Where is Jesus going? And why is Jesus so keen on me following him there?

These two provocative and effective questions are raised to help awaken from their spiritual slumber those attending my Jesus Worldview sessions. However, they have become a critical component of my daily spiritual discipline.

Twice a day, I thoughtfully consider (or, more accurately, grapple with) those two questions.

My day begins and ends with attempting to be intentionally present with God who is present with me. It is a work in progress. 

Newly awake and with coffee in hand — before checking email, text messages and newsfeeds— I spend time in quiet solitude. I pray, read scripture, meditate, listen and contemplate — or at least I try. 

Mainly, I seek to reign in my brain that is continually distracted and running in a thousand directions. I’m a lousy contemplative. 

But I find engaging those two questions has become surprisingly fruit-bearing for me.



Where is Jesus going? Why is Jesus so keen on me following him there?

Those two questions are considered again when my head meets the pillow at night. They have become a part of my modified Examen — just before I return my day to God.

Surprisingly, grappling with those two simple questions — repeatedly — is doing more than making my quiet time more satisfying and productive. 

Thinking about the myriad answers to the “where” and “why” of following Jesus is sharpening and enabling my Jesus Worldview in unexpected ways.

When I first started talking to groups about a Jesus Worldview, a primary goal was to try to convince them that they did not have onealready. That is a tough sell. 

But it is necessary to clearly differentiate between a Jesus Worldview and what is often called a “biblical” or “Christian” worldview that deflects from Jesus. While important, it felt like pushing a rock uphill as I “argued” for a Jesus Worldview.

Perhaps a better starting point for such discussions is to encourage the daily practice of considering the “where” and “why” questions of following Jesus — and letting a better understanding of the Way of Jesus emerge.

David White is Connections Pastor at Johns Creek Baptist Church in Alpharetta, Ga., and a facilitator of the Jesus Worldview Initiative (