I’ve started reading Follow Me to Freedom, an excellent book by ‘ordinary radicals’ Shane Claiborne and John Perkins (Regal Books, available online and through Christian bookshops). The books opens with the following exchange between the two writers:
SHANE: When we started The Simple Way community, we had an anarchistic saying: “A strong people need no leader,” and we determined that we would not have a leader…
SHANE: It worked pretty well—for about a week. A lot of folks today have serious hesitations about following others. Can you blame them? They’ve seen so many immoral teachers, bad presidents, crooked CEOs, scary preachers and pretentious mean people on the Left and on the Right … it’s no wonder there is a distrust of authority.
JOHN: I remember hearing the saying in the 1960s, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” And as African-Americans, distrust of authority is common. But Shane is right. Especially in the church and in politics—but also everywhere else—a lack of confidence in leaders has grown. In fact, it is rampant. I don’t like that. But the answer to bad leadership is not no leadership; rather, it is good leadership.
SHANE: So where do we begin?
A great question. Where do we begin? I can’t even attempt to fully answer that here (you’ll have to read the book yourself!) but it did get me thinking about my small group – and small groups in general.
Who are our leaders, and are we and they good followers? There’s a lot of talk about good leadership – which is great – but there’s not much talk about good follower-ship. We all, especially our leaders, should first and foremost be followers of Jesus. After all, the Bible is full of leaders who aim high but often miss the mark – and it’s only when they turn fully to God that their leadership is truly successful. See Paul’s letters to Timothy for more on leaders being accountable.
In a way, everyone is a disciple whether they know it or not. A disciple of celebrity, a disciple of sport, a disciple of movies or games or books or music, a disciple of certain political or social groups, even a disciple of a religion. But how many of us are truly disciples of Jesus?
The disciples of Hollywood stars aspire to be like Hollywood stars. The disciples of fashion aim to look like their fashion icons. The disciples of football stars take on some of the traits of their favourite footballers (less so the on-pitch skills and more the off-pitch behaviour or misbehaviour). I would say it’s a safe bet (if I was a betting man) that the disciples of Jesus would act like Jesus.
Maybe this is pretty obvious to many of us, which is great – keep going! You’ve got hold of a vital truth – keep holding tight onto it! Keep remembering this truth about followership and leadership. Appoint leaders who are first followers and continue to be followers no matter how big their (God’s) ministry gets!
Small group followership
As small group leaders – truly lead from the front. Be the leader who prays for their group. Be the leader who remembers their group’s ups and downs, hopes and fears. Be the leader who cares and loves and sacrifices and forgives the way Jesus does.
Don’t absentmindedly read questions off of a page or stick on a DVD as a way of getting out of really preparing – think through what you’re saying, lead the discussion but step back and let the group grow, put some passion into your meeting, tailor the discussion and study around your group’s strength and weaknesses, lead the way you would want to be led.
But don’t let yourself burn out. Take a break every now and then. Share the leadership – both the burden and the honour of responsibility. Rise up new leaders and helpers. Most of all – put Jesus in the centre of all you are and all you do, both as an individual and as a group.
Well done, good and faithful servant.
‘Come, follow me’ – Jesus (Matt. 4:19)
About Mark Baker
Mark Baker is an Editor at CWR. He loves reading, writing, worshipping Jesus, leading and being led in a small group, good food, good drink, and good friends (not necessarily in that order). Mark finds talking about himself in the third person a bit weird…