A Followed Leadership or A Leadership Followed?
Sure you’ve heard this quotable quote somewhere in leadership forum:
“If you call yourself a leader and no one is following behind your back then you’re merely taking a walk.”
Sounds familiar? Institutionalized churches all over the world that demands leadership positions are merely taking a walk.
But what about being a disciple; a ‘follower’ of Christ? Jesus commands us to go and make disciples. This means we will have those that will follow us. According to the above mentioned quote, this defines us as “leaders”. If we are called a leader that means we have some “followers” behind our backs following “us,” right? If we draw people to us then we are making disciples of “us”.
Let’s search the Scriptures, specifically the New Testament of “people-following-people” other than Christ. I found six instances:
1. The ‘John the Baptist’ health Leadership
John the Baptist was a lone voice calling in the desert, preparing the way for the Lord not even knowing who the Lord is (Jn.1:31 I myself did not know him, but the reason I came baptizing with water was that he might be revealed to Israel.” Lk.7:19 “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”). People followed John and became “his” disciples (Lk. 7:18 John’s disciples told him about all these things). Enter Jesus, there is for sure the climax.
He met Jesus at the river Jordan and everything changed for him. He quickly realized that for
Jesus to increase, he must decrease. From then on he points out to people in Jn 1:34, “I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.” Jn 1:36-37 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!” When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus.
John’s disciples became followers of Jesus. John was an extra-ordinary man. First he makes his own disciples then later we see him ‘releasing’ them to be Jesus disciples. If you have met Jesus, you naturally don’t want to increase and hold. This is healthy.
2. The World’s System of Leadership.
And Jesus called them to Him and said, ‘you know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men hold them in subjection [tyrannizing over them]. Not so shall it be among you; but whoever wishes to be great among you must be your servant, Mt. 20:25-26, Amplified Bible (AMP) “Not so among you,” Jesus says. Why? Because you are all brothers. And again he says in Mt. 23:10-11, Amplified Bible (AMP), And you must not be called masters (leaders), for you have one Master (Leader), the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant.
Basically, Jesus says here that the kingdom of this world seeks greatness in a way to dominate other people. But the Kingdom of God is not about having authority over people and control them but helping them how to follow the Real Master, Jesus, and by doing this you are great by serving your brother. Paul also emphasizes in Ro.12:2, “Do not be conformed to the patterns of this world.”
3. The Ephesus Solicitation of Leadership
Paul in his exhortation to the Ephesian elders “commending [them] to God and to the Word of His grace, which is able to build [them] up…” does not worry about leadership at all but warns them about it. “Also, from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” Acts 20:30-32. Poor Paul had to warn everyone night and day for three years with tears against those who are craving for leadership!
4. The Corinthian Election of Leadership
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, “I am of Paul,” and another, “I am of Apollos,” are you not carnal? 1 Cor.3:1-5 New King James Version (NKJV)
5. The Diotrephes’ Empire Leadership
3 Jn 1:9-10 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.
A Diotrephes empire is usually run by a strong or manipulative personality that rejects the bigger picture of the Body, and fails to give and receive fellowship with other members around them. This guy is probably the first one who started the denominations and is black listed as a warning to avoid.
6. The Nicolaitan’s Veneration of Leadership
But this you have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. Rev. 2:6 Nico means a conqueror and Laitan refers to laity the common people. Nicholas, one of the deacons of Acts 6:5 was an intellectual person and so dominated the gathering, would not allow others to speak. So it was no longer a participatory church and Jesus does not like such a church where the clergy conquer the laity.
Unfortunately, this kind of leadership (clergy and laity) style of putting down people is found in most of the churches today. They are not only the ones who think they know better than anybody else but worst, they think they are closer to God than anybody else!
The word “leader” appears quite many times in the Scripture but unfortunately they were never referred to or used among God’s people. Strictly speaking, Jesus and the apostles forbade using those very titles. Paul, James and Peter maintained themselves to be a “servant” (Rom.1:1; 2Pet.2:1; Jas 1:1)