With all the talk in Christian circles about the calling and forming of leaders, you might think that “leadership” was a major theme of Jesus’ teachings. It wasn’t. Jesus never calls for leaders. He calls for followers. Consider this video from Derek Sivers, which he presented at TED:
From the transcript: “Being a first follower is an under-appreciated form of leadership. The first follower transforms a lone nut into a leader. If the leader is the flint, the first follower is the spark that makes the fire…New followers emulate followers, not the leader. Leadership is over-glorified. Yes, it started with the shirtless guy, and he’ll get all the credit. But you saw what really happened[:] There’s no movement without the first follower…The best way to make a movement, if you really care, is to courageously follow, and show others how to follow.”
Christ alone is the head of the church. In the Old Testament, the leaders of the people of God are all flawed, most are destructive, and many are outright wicked. In the New Testament, there are worldly authorities, but no kingdom leaders apart from Christ. There are only first-followers — people like Paul, who said “follow me as I follow Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Let’s be honest. The concept of leadership appeals to our pride and egotism, and the concept of “servant-leadership” appeals to our worldly pride (we are “leaders”) and to our spiritual pride (look at what Christian leaders we are, how willing to humble our great selves even though we are leaders!). Pride is insidious, and it will finds its way into anything; but I like the concept of the first follower. (1) It takes true courage and humility to be a first-follower, for you will be thought a fool. (2) First-followers show others how to follow Christ; they re-present Christ, making him visible to others, showing what it looks like to strive to follow Christ in this context, and showing that such striving is possible. (3) The true leader gets the glory, and the first-follower celebrates the leader instead of himself. (4) What Sivers describes as the “tipping point” is arguably where the church goes astray, where following becomes the “in” thing to do. But we “follow” Christ when we live the life of genuine striving and sacrifice and suffering to which he calls us; when we succeed at that, following Christ will never be attractive to worldly values; when we fail, the church becomes indistinguishable from the world. As long as we have followers and not leaders, the church will remain the church.