Oh, I don't walk around trying to convince people that I'm worth following. In fact, if anything, I really make greater efforts to avoid any pretense of even wanting to lead anything. And yet I get phone calls and emails from people who tell me that they followed some direction I gave them and I begin to feel uncomfortable.
Now some of you can relate to all of this and others are beginning to have any perceptions you might have had of me confirmed. But if you've spent any time in the New Testament epistle of James, perhaps you can understand some of my concern. James, thought by many to be the brother of Jesus, writes: "Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we will incur a stricter judgment" (James 3:1).
I think every time someone tells me that they have followed some instruction I have given, I shutter. I always think of this verse. The organizations I work with are good organizations, making huge differences in the lives of others, and now they're listening to me. Yikes!
Well this morning I was reading in Luke 5. It's Dr. Luke's account of a time in Jesus' ministry when, after providing some rich instruction to the crowds that were constantly pressing around Him to hear "the word of God," he suggested to Simon that he take his boat and go out into the deep water and go fishing. The problem as Peter saw it was that he had just spent most of the night doing just that. It wasn't a good night of fishing!
Peter shared what he and his buddies had done and then stated, "I will do as you say . . ." (Luke 5:5). It was kind of like me saying, "OK, I've done this before but if you insist . . . "
I was sitting out at a picnic table in my backyard as the sun was just creeping over the horizon as I read this. Peter was a follower here, although he would later become an extraordinary leader. I grabbed a sheet of paper and wrote on the top of it: The Value and Freedom of Following. Here's what I wrote:
"As a follower you really don't have to worry about much of anything. Someone who has been there before has done all of that! As a follower I can enjoy the journey. I can look around and enjoy the scenery and have the freedom of enjoying the community of others who are following with me. Along the way, the leader provides commentary on what I'm seeing and why it's so important. After all, he's been there before, he knows the obstacles and he also knows the best vistas where you can gain the best perspectives."
I let my imagination run for a while. And I came to realize that even as a "leader" I must learn to follow. And that really is the joy of it all; following Someone who has gone before.
There's a million lessons here for all of us. I'm reading something all the time because I want to learn more, I talk to people each time I am granted opportunity to get their perspectives of the troubling issues I confront daily, I ask lots of questions and I try to listen intently for the grains of truth that will help me to get better.
And I'm trying to follow God's leading in my life, reading His Word regularly, posing to Him my most private concerns, and listening to what He has to tell me.
We're all leaders to someone. I want to be a better one but I've come to believe that whatever impact I might have as a leader will be proportional to how well I've followed. Food for thought.