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Knoxville, TN, United States
Interim Pastor of Evergreen Presbyterian Church (USA), Dothan, AL.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

FOMOOJ - The Fear of Missing Out On Jesus

2014-05-25 FOMOOJ - The Fear of Missing Out On Jesus
John 14:15-21

These days there are these cool abbreviations for things. You have to ask a 14 year-old to know what they all mean. There's YOLO - You Only Live Once. LOL - Laugh Out Loud. ROTFL - Rolling On The Floor Laughing. 

There's, K - just the letter, "K". It's what you text when typing both "o" AND "k" is just too much. A lot of times, I'll mean to type K and accidentally press "I", which means, "Bless his heart, he's trying." No one thinks it might be the first letter of, "I... need help. Please call doctor."

And FOMO - F. O. M. O.

The Urban Dictionary - your source for all the stuff your kids won't tell you - The Urban Dictionary defines FOMO as, "Fear of Missing Out." 


1) The fear that if you miss a party or event you will miss out on something great, as in, "Even though he was exhausted, John's FOMO got the best of him and he went to the party."

2) A form of social anxiety - a compulsive concern that one might miss an opportunity or satisfying event, often aroused by posts seen on social media websites.

It's further defined more existentially, 3) a noun indicating a state of mental or emotional strain. An omnipresent anxiety brought on by our cognitive ability to recognize potential opportunities: The brothers had last-slice FOMO as they stared at what was left of pizza.

FOMO is related to another social anxiety, FOBLO: fear of BEING left out.

FOBLO is "anxiety caused by knowing that friends are planning something (like an outing, party or wedding) and you won't be invited, or nobody will remember to tell you about it. This causes one to reach out to everyone attending to make sure he/she is not forgotten."
"Barbara was calling, emailing and texting everyone to say "hi" but they all knew she just had FOBLO and wanted to go to the party."

We have these wonderful new ways of describing fear. These fears that have been around as long as people have been gathering in groups and leaving other people out. The abbreviations are new, but the fears are old. They're older than Jesus. The fears were most surely were around when the disciples walked the earth and Jesus did not, any longer.

The disciples' fears of life without Jesus gave rise to a whole new anxiety, which I like to call, F-O-M-O-J, FOM-Ohhge, meaning Fear Of Missing Out - On Jesus. I don't expect to see it take the Internet by storm, but the fear's out there, and it's real, and it started a long, long time ago.


In a beautiful passage of assurance and hope, John, Chapter 14, Jesus speaks to his disciples.

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

You have to wonder why Jesus would say these words of compassion and assurance. Why would he NEED to reassure his followers? When do YOU need to be reassured? Easy - when you're afraid.

They're afraid. Jesus speaks compassion to his disciples because they're afraid. As much as the early Christians wanted to believe in the Resurrection, as much as they wanted to believe that Jesus was coming back, soon, Jesus didn't leave them a schedule. Did he mean today? Or next year? Did he already come back but they had missed out? The worries produce anxiety. Unchecked anxiety leads to fear.

Imagine your Lord and Savior has been crucified. Imagine wanting to believe resurrection visions. Imagine wanting to believe what your friends and family tell you. Imagine wanting to believe the faithful stirrings in your own heart. And then imagine not knowing for sure if you're being hopeful and faithful, or just crazy. You'd have a fear of missing out or a fear of messing up. Oh, but wait. You don't have to imagine. 


The funeral had just concluded. I was grieving, too. It was about 95 degrees. I was standing by myself, in my robe, trying not to sweat giant stains all over it. A distant relative of the deceased came over to me and asked, "Preacher, do you think he really KNEW Jesus? I mean, did you ever hear his testimony?" My insides started boiling hotter than my outsides because the underlying question I heard was, "Do you think he's in heaven, REALLY?"

My first urge was to punch the relative in the nose. My second urge was to say, "If he's not, I don't want to go." Luckily, God and the summer heat restrained me. I took a deep breath. I told myself the relative was asking out of fear. The fear of missing out on Jesus. He feared his family member might miss out or be left out. In the heat. Forever.

There are so many voices these days, so many competing religious claims. Competing for air within Christianity. Religions competing against Christianity. 

There are so many intelligent non-religious voices claiming that if Jesus DID exist, the first time - not just the resurrected time - he's been so twisted up by churches and nations wanting to justify their latest atrocities that he barely means anything anymore.

Everyone's got a vision of Jesus. Liberal, social justice Jesus. Conservative, toe the line Jesus. Happy, have a nice day Jesus. Angry Jesus, who hates Darwin and everything scientific and secular and taught in public schools. There's pressure. There's pressure to pick the right Jesus. It's like a final exam, and you know how much fun those are. Did you choose the True Jesus or the False Jesus? Does faith make you (a) fearlessly confident, (b) hopefully faithful, or (c) just plain crazy? (pick one and explain your answer before your time runs out).

It can make you afraid. The fear can make people mean, make them so stubborn that even the best-intentioned believers can turn hateful. As in, "I'm right, you're wrong; I'm superior, and you're gonna burn, sorry but that's just the way it is, nothing personal." As in, "They had so much Fear Of Missing Out that they turned ugly toward anyone who might be Being Left Out."

And the common root of ALL the answers is fear. The Fear of Missing Out, the Fear of Being Left Out, the Fear of Missing Out On Jesus.


You probably know people who don't go to church. They don't go or they stopped going because church started sounding like a fear factory. You're in / you're out; you're good / you're bad; you're saved or or a sweaty stain on humanity's backside. These folks who stay away have gotten over their Fear of Missing Out by staying out. They've chosen "none of the above" and withdrawn from the arguments and exams. A very common perception of church is that it's just a collection of like-minded people held together by their Fear of Missing Out On Jesus.

It's not a new fear. It's a very old fear. To which Jesus spoke when he said to those earliest Christians, "Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. I do not give as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid."

Jesus didn't shame them for their fear. He spoke compassion to it. He said, "I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you.  In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

I don't know exactly how that works. But I think Jesus is saying that even though we still have our fears, the Missing Out, the Being Left Out, as far as he's concerned, is over. Even though we don't see him in the flesh doesn't mean he isn't with us in other ways, spiritual ways, truthful ways that speak not only to what the eye can see and the mind contain, but in what the heart knows, and hopes, and believes.


Imagine a church without fear. Imagine a church that thinks being compassionate is more important than being right. Imagine a church that welcomes - in every word, in every action. Imagine a church that takes in every stranger no matter how strange or irreverent, or afraid. Imagine a church that has no Fear of Missing Out On Jesus, not because it gets its doctrine right, but because it trusts that the living Jesus speaks - that the living Christ speaks to our fears, speaks to our deepest, oldest fears, fears that threatened to dissolve the disciples and orphan the early church. Imagine how that would be.

We are here, our church is here, because Jesus promised. Jesus promised that fear and death would never be the final word. Jesus does not leave people, nor does he allow us to be left out. 

"I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to YOU. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you."

Not left out in any way. But together, as one.

Imagine a church like that. In your heart, BE a church like that. And that promised day will come. And you will have no more fear of being left out, or of Missing Out On Jesus.