How many books on leadership have you read this year? How about the past five years? How many leadership blogs do you subscribe to? What do you think the number of posts you’ve read on leadership might be? How about conferences? Are you planning to attend a leadership conference or seminar in the next two to three years? Does your employer provide you with any leadership training as part of you job – perhaps even requiring it?
If you had to guess, what might be the value of all the leadership advice, skills, and training you have consumed in your adult life? Don’t think too hard about this. Just ballpark it.
Now … what do you suppose is the value of all the advice, skill, and training you have received on following?
Need more time?
We are, in my opinion, in a period of history marked by an absolute dearth of leadership information. Current and former CEOs, business owners, and professional athletes – to name but a few – are making massive amounts of money and gaining immeasurable influence telling others how to lead. True, some of them aren’t in it to make a profit, but whenever such vast amounts of time and resources go into something as pervasive as the Western leadership industry, you can bet money is involved somewhere.
And there seems to be no limit to how much more this industry might grow. Despite a crowded playing field, there’s probably room for more leaders with advice to give and influence to gain.
One entity that is noticeably eager to give such influence is the church. Some of America’s largest mega-churches and their pastors hold leadership conferences each year, drawing in tens of thousands of ministers and staff members who hope the money they have spent will translate into greater leadership capabilities, and thus greater ministry success – however it is they may choose to define success.
I wonder, however, in this great hunger Evangelicalism has adopted for leadership influence and power if we might have largely overlooked a simple yet obvious implication: leaders need followers. And followers must logically, if not largely, outnumber leaders.
Funny thing about me: I actually like being a follower. I’m a task-oriented introvert who is happiest at the big, noisy church potluck emptying the trash bins when they start to overflow. I enjoy seeking out the little things others have left undone, and doing them quietly, without being asked. I probably will never volunteer to organize a children’s ministry, but I will gladly sanitize the toys when the kids have gone home.
The times I do wind up leading are because I’m passionate about something. I lead Bible studies and Sunday school classes because I love watching other people “get it” when I explain something from God’s Word. I led my sons’ Cub Scout dens because, well, I love, my sons! (I did not love being a Den Leader. Not at all.) When there’s a leadership vacuum and I’m able to help, I’ll lead. And then I’ll happily go back go following when it’s done.
The thing is, though, there is almost no one in any sphere of influence available to tell me how to be a better follower. There aren’t many books, doubtful many blogs. I have yet to see any mega-church announce their big “Follow-ship 2013″ conference. Sure, I I’ve seen a few books on “servant leadership,” but even then leadership is part of the subject.
I would hate to think that we’ve lost the value of following in Christ’s body, even as we have increasingly referred to ourselves as “Christ followers”. After all, our Lord began His earthly mission by saying “Follow me” to 12 cultural misfits and rejects. Jesus is the one who told those who ostensibly loved Him that they would have to follow Him while dragging along the instruments of their bloody deaths. He put a pretty high value on follow-ship, wouldn’t you say?
The fact is, we can’t all be leaders. Some us will never be. We may end our earthly lives always having been a follower of one sort or another. The point is that we keep our eyes fixed on the Good Shepherd, who leads us faithfully through the valley of the shadow of death and into green pastures, beside quiet waters.