Leadership. It is a word that provokes grandiose ideas in some and absolute fear in others. It is something that has been used to create, sustain, destroy, and rebuild nations, families, churches, and organizations. Enough books have been written on the topic to fill entire libraries and it is a favorite choice of topic among conference speakers in nearly every vocational field. The ideas of a good leader range from the one who holds all of the power to the humblest of servants (though in my mind one man easily fills both of these positions simultaneously). I could talk to you about leadership, but you probably already know what I’d say.
Then there is this crazy idea of something called followership. What, you’ve never heard of it? I hadn’t either until Pastor Larry Griswold, the Superintendent of the Illinois District of the Assemblies of God, spoke on this topic this past spring. This whole idea revolves around the paradoxical thought that those who are the best leaders usually are the best followers. Truthfully, we all follow someone or something and it is our ability to follow that shapes how we lead.
Jesus modeled this by following the perfect will of God in every single thing He did. Because He was a perfect follower, He was the world’s greatest leader (no matter what you believe about Jesus, you cannot deny the fact that He has changed history more than any other single individual in the history of mankind). One man doesn’t create a following that survives 2000 years in the midst of persecution, ridicule, and spans the entirety of the globe without being a phenomenal leader.
The disciples became great leaders in their own right, but they first had to prove themselves by faithfully following for 3 1/2 years. Did they always get it right? No. I think the better question would be, did they ever get it right? As they learned to follow Jesus, they learned how to lead others and they became a part of the revolution. Jesus’ first command to them was not, lead them, though I believe that was His desire. His first command was, “follow me.”
I try to be a great follower first, before I ever try leading. I follow my pastor and his vision, relying heavily on the trust that he is following the vision that God has given him. At my day job, I follow my bosses all the way up to the CEO. This is not always easy, but I’m learning the need to follow even when I may not agree with everything. I follow my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, but there are days I struggle with doing what He asks of me. Coincidentally (but not really), the times my leadership suffers the most are also the times that I notice I am not following as well as I know I should be.
I challenge you today with this thought, for this season of your life, stop focusing on leadership and start focusing on followership. If you are following God’s plan, He will lead others to you to be led by you.
P.S. This is not an anti-leadership post. In fact, I still believe the church, and kids’ ministry specifically, needs great leaders. For some great kidmin leadership insights check out Jim Wideman’s blog or the Kidmin360 blog. Both of these are great leadership sources. Both of these men exhibit exceptional followership in their devotion to Christ as well as their commitment to the leaders they serve.