What If I Don’t Want to Lead This Parade? (And an Announcement)


Sawyer Sharing Brudder’s Chair. Hawaii. May, 2012.

I’d Like to Tag Along
Anyone with younger siblings know that little kids are natural pests. The summer I was five I followed my long-suffering cousin Larry everywhere. I would have followed him right into the bathroom if he had let me. 

(That same summer I wrecked Larry’s go-cart when I drove it into a tree. Today, I consider it a mark of his character that he allows me anywhere near his house). 

Several years later a sense of abandonment blindsided me when my big sister left home. I would never have admitted it at the time, but I watched her every move, absorbing what it meant to be three years older than I was then. 

My friend Hazel posted a piece on following last month and she got me thinking:

We’re born ready to trot along behind a leader. We’re wired to learn by watching. And as adults, we continue learning important skills by watching a more experienced teacher tackle the same task. If you’re in business, you learned how to shine in a meeting by attending and listening at meetings. If you can swing a bat, you watched better ball players and practiced what you saw. If you’re a parent, you learned a lot about how to do that job by being parented

Following creates proximity, positioning us to watch and learn. 

Following matters

So why do we ignore it? We praise “leadership skills.” LinkedIn proposes “thought leaders” whose wisdom I can read.

Don’t misunderstand me. I understand the value of good leaders. 

I also understand the value of good followers. Leadership is worthless without people willing to carry out the spectacular plans. A great director is nothing without people willing to be directed.  

But when we think of following, we think of handing over power. We think of surrender. 

We all know about strong leadership. Today I’d like to invite you to consider strong leaders’ need for strong followers.

So what does a strong follower look like? I’ve been thinking about this a lot, lately. 

Strong followers trust their leader. Now to trust my leader, I need to have faith in my leader. I might be asked to do something that seems counter to the goal. Unless I’m satisfied that I’m serving the right captain, I’m likely to jump ship the first time I’m called to furl the sails in a gale.

Strong followers use discernment. That’s how I find a trustworthy leader. I keep my eyes open even when I’m not standing watch.

Strong followers commit. Once I make the decision to follow, I’m all in. That doesn’t mean I stop sizing up my leader–we can all think of charismatic leaders who are, well, bad. The world would be a better place if no-one followed Charles Manson. But barring a change from the values and goals that first drew me, I need to stay the course when the going gets rough.

Strong followers are willing to work hard. Good, valuable work can be hard. Good leaders may, therefore, expect followers to perform hard work. Toil: It’s not a dirty word.

All my pondering leads me to realize that our devaluation of followers illuminates another way that loving Jesus isn’t “worldly.” He calls us to follow Him. And He warns us it won’t be easy. Yet it’s not often we meet people who long to follow . . . at least not outside the church’s walls.

And too often, it’s rare inside them, too. 

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me.”Mark 8:34 (NASB) 

And now, some news: Godspotting is growing up. And we all know that growing up can be messy. On Saturday, August 17, we’ll be rolling out our spiffy new look. It’s a creation of the indulgent genius, Lyla Willingham Lindquist, proprietor of  The Willingham Enterprise.  
So don’t mind the pixelated dust if you come by this weekend and all is not perfectly orderly. We’ll have it all pretty in a jiffy.

I think you’ll like our new look. And I can’t wait to introduce you to Stuart.

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