In a world obsessed with leadership, we are called to be followers.
“Then he said to them all: Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” Luke 9:23-25
However, this does not deter the christian from leading by example while following. Confusing right? Being a leader should never misdirect attention from Christ, to the individual. When leadership becomes selfish, or even worse, self-promoting, it becomes sinful.
Leadership has become a buzzword in both secular and religious circles. The main goal within organizations has become identifying talent, leveraging said talent in a half-hearted attempt to “glorify God,” and most importantly grow your follower count on instagram. Followers have become the product when it should be the goal. We focus on tricking and attracting followers when Christ calls us to be humble and follow. I am not immune to this nor has the sanctification process removed this sin from my life. This is one of my bigger struggles and it is a constant battle.
What does it mean to follow?
Jesus had a tendency of saying things that were hard to hear. He had a subtle manner of identifying and mentioning what people cling to besides God. Beyond that, Christ seemed to always show that possessions and prestige have no eternal worth. In today’s society, one could say your follower count and social media presence are not eternally relevant. A verse that is not often, dare I say ever, used when teaching on leadership is a passage found in Matthew chapter 8.
Let the dead bury the dead.
Jesus taught a man this simple lesson and I believe he is still teaching us this same lesson today.
“When Jesus saw the crowd around him, he gave orders to cross to the other side of the lake. Then a teacher of the law came to him and said, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” Another disciple said to him, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
But Jesus told him, “Follow me, and let the dead bury their own dead.”
One may read this and say, “what in the world does this passage have to do with leadership?” However, if you read this passage alongside Dr. Luke’s account of the same scenario, this meticulous-note-taking doctor includes an important detail not present in Matthew’s telling.
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
From Luke’s account, we know that when Jesus declared the importance of following him, there were multiple people struggling to leave their family. The first example was a man waiting to bury his father and the second example was a person that would follow Christ only after saying goodbye to family.
How am I supposed to lead?
This story in scripture is probably the most clear explanation of biblical leadership. When we are able to follow (another word here would be trust) Christ in all circumstances, leadership is a byproduct. In the story, people were so tied up in family matters they felt as if they could not immediately follow Christ. Because Jesus is the “way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), we are required to submit wholeheartedly to his Lordship. This free gift of grace requires no contribution on our behalf, but once we experience that grace, there is nothing of higher importance. Faith is following Christ, even when the road is difficult and daunting. Leadership is being the first to say, here I am, choose me.
In a culture that consistently blends leadership into egocentrism, we must learn to humbly follow. When we cling to what is not of Christ, we cling to sin. Paul simply states,
“for the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want” (Galatians 5:17).
Anything we hold more dear than salvation is sinful in its root form. Therefore, anything we long for that glorifies man rather than God is evil.
See you in the blind.