In the book, “How to Inherit the Earth,” the author says when he put the word “leader” in a book search at Amazon he got 29,000 hits! For “follower” he got 1000 hits, and many of those were things like “how to lead so others will follow.” In response, my friend Randy Harris commented that in the Gospels, the word “lead” occurs only 21 times and most of the references are negative. By contrast, the word “follow” occurs 86 times and most of the mentions are positive.
This is what Harris concludes. “I can’t help wondering if we aren’t more interested in leadership than Jesus is. At least it seems at times that we’ve made it a greater priority than Jesus did. The best leaders, according to the gospel, are those who have learned to follow radically. After all, the invitation is not to ‘come lead.'” It’s this: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).
This high calling goes for all of us. There is no hierarchy of holiness in the church. One of the worst things that happens in churches is when there develops two standards of Christ-like living–the leaders in a higher category and the laity in a lower category. I’m not suggesting we lower the standards for those who would be leaders. Instead, we all lean into the life to which God calls and claims us.
Those who are or would be leaders (be it life group leaders, ministry leaders, teachers, shepherds, etc.) then serve as examples of the kind of life and faith into which we are all striving to grow. This is in no way about perfection. We are all flawed. We are all equally reliant on God’s grace and Spirit. But the hope is that when we find ourselves in positions of leadership, we can say, like Paul, with great humility and awareness of our own shortcomings, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).