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What does the name Christian mean?


Thank you for your question and your interest in finding out what the word Christian means. The word means ‘follower of Christ’ and was first used to describe disciples of Jesus Christ, in the early days of the church, at a place called Antioch. We know this from the Bible record which says: And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26).

In the account of Christ’s life which you can read about in the 4 New Testament Gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, we find there were several occasions where He approached people and asked them to follow Him. For example in Matthew’s Gospel we read; while walking by the Sea of Galilee, He [Jesus] saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea for they were fisherman. And He said to them, “Follow Me and I will make you fishers of men.” Immediately they left their nets and followed Him. (Matthew 4:18-20). A little further on in the same Gospel we read of another occasion where the same request was made; as Jesus passed on from there, He saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and He said to him, “Follow Me.” And he rose and followed Him (Matthew 9:9). Another example, this time from the Gospel of John, reads; the next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” (John 1:43). We see then that Christ called people to follow Him but you might be thinking why did He do that?

Jesus asked people, and still asks people, to follow Him because He loves them and cares for them. He helps us to understand this by drawing on the picture of a shepherd who would lead his sheep and the sheep would follow. The shepherd would lead the sheep to food, water and safe places to rest and sleep. The shepherd would protect the sheep from wild animals and thieves and in so doing would risk his own life for them. The shepherd would rescue the sheep when they got in difficulty and would carry them on his shoulders when they were too weak or small to walk themselves. The shepherd would know his sheep and the sheep would know the shepherd and follow him, responding to his voice and his voice alone. The Lord Jesus said; "I am the Good Shepherd.  The Good Shepherd lays down His life for the sheep" (John 10:9).  All the leading, feeding, rescuing, protecting and carrying that a shepherd did for his sheep the Lord Jesus wants to do for our spiritual lives. That’s why He says to us all “Follow Me”.

So in summary a Christian is a follower of Christ, someone who has been loved and saved by Christ. We see that because the Lord Jesus loves people He calls them to follow Him. The fact that those early followers were later on called Christians shows us that following Christ, the Good Shepherd, is at the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

To start following Christ we must turn away from our sin (the wrong we do against God and others) and trust that Jesus died to forgive us and rose again to give us new life. Consider this verse: because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame" (Romans 10:12)

We are then called to follow Jesus' teachings as found in the Bible. This includes:
praying, meeting with God's people, sharing God's love with others, following his rules and plans for our lives and reading the Bible. This is not a chore, but a blessing for all who walk with Christ!

I do hope this general answer to your question goes some way to helping you understand more about what it means to be a Christian. If you want to know more about what Jesus has done for you please watch the video on the main part of our site:

In closing, I want to encourage you to get more involved with your local church. It would be good to speak to a Christian leader or another trusted church individual regarding your question. I know they would be delighted to further answer you as well as offer prayer and support as you continue your spiritual journey:

Please use our Interactive Answer Matrix and feel free to ask another question. Our helpful staff are praying for you and waiting to try and answer to you from the Bible, and will be delighted to tell you more about Jesus Christ the Lord, the Saviour of the world.

Here are some more Bible Verses for your further consideration:

  • Psalm 23
  • John 10:1-20
  • John 12:26

*All Scripture references are taken From The English Standard Version of the Holy Bible unless stated otherwise

*If anything in this answer affects you directly, then please feel free to call our confidential prayer line in the UK on 0845 4567729, where trained Christian volunteers will take your call and pray both for you and with you. If you are outside of the UK then you may submit your request for prayer on line at

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