In the world of business people often say “there are leaders and followers”, but I’m not sure that it is true.
Many people think ‘leadership’ is something you are born with, like blue eyes or freckles, but again I’m not sure this is true either.
When we obsess about leadership, we are only thinking of one side of the coin, for leaders to exist people need to be followers.
Actually I believe everyone actually is following something or someone, -I think we often ask the wrong question in our culture, for example I believe everyone worships it’s a human instinct, so the question isn’t will you worship but WHO/WHAT will you worship?
The same question is not, will you follow anyone/anything but WHAT/WHO will we follow?
However, I think what differs for Christians is the issue of self awareness, when we end up worshipping the wrong things, do we realise we are worshipping?
Or when we follow the wrong thing, do we realise that we are following it?
I believe that often we don’t realise what we worship, nor truly see who we follow? -We don’t always know or realise our what our drivers are? -what pulls our strings? -what pushes our buttons?
Certainly us as Christians we know we are supposed to worship and follow Christ.
Yet, do we actually really know what this really looks like in our normal every day lives?
I would suggest that if you are following Christ you will notice three things:
The question maybe we need to ask ourselves, how do I know if I am following Christ, or am I doing my own thing with a bit of a Christian veneer?
1) There will be movement, if you are following anything you wont be staying in the same place, you’ll noticing changes, challenges, growth (although sometimes we don’t always realise we are moving because we are always with ourselves so we can’t see the changes. Also, sometimes when we are on a stationary train and another zooms past it gives the illusion of movement, don’t think because people are moving around you that you are necessarily moving yourself!)
2) Fruit, if you are following Christ, you will be becoming more like him!
3) Opposition, if you are following Christ you are going to feel some friction, because you aren’t going the same way as everyone else.
Yet the problem with following Christ is that there seem to be too many middle men called leaders, and how do we follow Christ, moving forward with others, together in an area without any human leadership.
Without leaders and followers, we will never do anything together, and certainly won’t move forward… somehow, what ever we think of it, leadership and followership is part of the human DNA, and I would suggest that we both operate in both areas at different times and at different occasions.
We are all followers, and yet there is a calling for us to lead, but this is more of a case of “follow me whilst I follow Christ”, it is about a journey with Christ in the company of others.
And, then when we start thinking about leadership we realise we can’t be a leader of Christ’s people unless we are a follower of Christ himself, you can lead people where you haven’t been, or aren’t prepared to go yourself.
The leaders of the Bible -with possible exception of Samson, who is a bit of a muppet anyway- are largely not Oxford Educated, chino wearing Alpha males, but rather limping nobodies from backwaters.
I think we sometimes get confused between gifting and anointing, character and calling.
Do you think God is saying something, then share it, if other people rally around the vision and you seek to make it happen you are a leader.
Sometimes you will be the one who hears something and calls people to step out so you step out and lead, sometimes you are the one who hears something from someone else and the spirit quickens within you and you feel called to step out and follow.
If we truly believe that we have a God who is our strength in weakness why in so much of the Christian life is everyone fighting to be top dog?
And why is it all the time
Too often we talk of growing leaders, which is great, but actually in our self sufficient, egocentric, consumerist culture, learning how to be a follower is sometimes a bigger and a tougher lesson than being a leader.
We live in a world which says “you can’t tell me what to do”, but instead we are choosing to sacrifice something of our own independence for the sake of the Kingdom of God, and his value of interdependence.
Following is tough because it means humbly not getting our own way all the time, and we all like that, everyone wants to be agreed with!
Following is sacrificial, Simon and Andrew, John and James left their livelihood to come and follow Christ, Matthew/Levi walked out of his paid employment to follow Jesus. Jesus talked of his followers “picking up their crosses” -being a follower is a challenging call.
Leaders too can sometimes be frustrating, I know I am at times, and probably people could say with justification say “I could do better than that” but for whatever reason I’m called to a certain role at a certain time, and maybe God is teaching me stuff? Or maybe teaching you stuff? Which ever it is, we need to lay our frustrations at the foot of the cross, we as Church are called to be a community of grace, where our worth is not in our performance. Sometimes it is in leading and sometimes in following, we discover the grace of God that is unearned and given simply for being us, God’s beloved.
The challenge of grace is how easily do we slip into competitiveness, and not doing it?
The challenge of grace is how easily we slip into comparisons, and not doing it?
The challenge of grace is how easily we slip into complaining, and not doing it -the car park after a meeting or over Sunday lunch are often places where some leader or others ears probably burn!
How can we be a community of grace?
How can we lead and follow together well?
Graham Kendrick talks of “each others needs to prefer”
The world often talks about one person, normally a man, telling everyone else what to do, yet the Christian model of leadership is more about seeking God’s will prayerfully in community, it’s about shared conversations together. Often it is others in the community who refine and shape the vision, honing it to make it more in-line with the voice, will and heart of God, the body ministry each playing its part.
Interestingly here we often see two types of people, the ‘controller’ and the ‘submissive’, the person who fights for their corner and the person who caves in, and interestingly we all need to learn from both of these.
Are their times when Christ is calling us to contend for what he has said?
Are their times when we need to bow and submit to someone else’s judgement call?
Working out which is which can be hard and challenging too, my suggestion is it is often the one we find tougher to do, which often is where God is calling us.
Christian Leadership is about bravely following Christ together as community, the call is often -if not always- on the narrow and rocky pathway, it’s not an easy route, some will bail out because it is too hard and costly, some will bail out because a nice and more comfortable vision comes into view, some will bail out because they don’t see the vision, some will bail about because of our failures of leadership -which is really hard for us.
A wise Elder once said to me “the only thing we are called to be is faithful”.
The God we serve loves us and sees our heart, and all that is within them.
Ultimately it is him we are doing all this for, we lead because we are following his call to “come and follow him”… As we follow we know he sees our hearts.
Search me and know me O God and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
So, lets embrace grace, lets be faithful, let him see our heart, and let us move forward with him together with one another, a rickety caravan of a community, but as we edge forward every step toward Christ is a team effort which receives a cheer from the one who says “well done good and faithful servant”.