Following the Leader

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Peter Pan is one of the favorite movies in the Dau household, I think mostly because Peter and Amy have a similar taste in hair styles. One of my favorite parts of the movie is when the Lost Boys are marching to fight some Indians and sing “Following the Leader.” This song came to mind today as I was reading my friend Marty’s blog post on leadership. You can follow his series here. Marty has been exploring the lack of leadership references in the Bible and that is something especially striking to me. We are rarely exhorted to “lead” in the Bible and frequently asked to “follow.” This got my thinking about my role as a pastor and the Lord led me to 1 Corinthians 11:1 where Paul says, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” 

We live in a leadership obsessed culture. The quality of a pastor is determined by his ability to vision cast, move people from being the “community” to the “core” and generally act like a CEO of a religious goods and services company. But we don’t see that precedent anywhere in the Scriptures. Paul says “follow my example,” sure. But he follows it up with “as I follow the example of Christ.” Paul, one of the premier apostles, evangelists, teachers and prophets and pastors of the New Testament, doesn’t describe himself as a leader, but as a follower. He doesn’t say that he has it all figured out and that people should follow him, rather he says, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me,” Philippians 3:12. Paul hadn’t attained perfection when he wrote this, but was vigorously following Jesus’ lead.

Jesus is our Leader. Jesus is our Good Shepherd. We follow Him. This thing we call “leadership” in the Church is really followership. As I write that last word, little red squiggles come up under it. “Followership” is evidently not a word. We have created a word “leadership” and given it a state of being and definition, but have not given the same attention to the importance of following. But we are called to be followers, not leaders. “Leaders” in the Church are really those who have been following for a longer period of time, or with greater zeal and intensity. They are further down the road of Christian Discipleship, so it looks like they are blazing new trails, but really they are following the path that the Good Shepherd marked out for them.

It is not false modesty to say that I am not a strong leader. But I am giving it my all to be a good follower. I am doing the best I can to listen to Jesus and walk in lock-step with the Spirit. It is my prayer that you will join me in doing the same.

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