Over the last three decades, there has been a seismic shift across the landscape of the church. The advent of church-growth theory, coupled with exponential advances in technology, has created a hyperpursuit for leadership muscle that has never been seen before. Seminars and conferences have become trendy leadership fitness centers. Titans of business and megachurch pastors serve as leadership fitness trainers, while books and periodicals deliver leadership steroids and growth hormones.
The goal of such an industry? To create better leaders, stronger leaders, to make and multiply leaders.
This is where we are today. This book looks at a different issue: How can we become better followers?
Just hit us right between the eyes, Leonard Sweet.
Which of us cannot raise our hands and confess to a past or present addiction to a leadership culture in the church which is more about what Eugene Peterson calls “religious shopkeeping” than it is about following Jesus and challenging others to do the same?
Leaders are esteemed. Leaders rock the world. Leaders make more leaders. So who wants to be a follower? Do I gain bragging rights based on whose blog I follow – or how many people are following my blog?
Leonard Sweet’s latest book, I Am a Follower will kick and prod and stir you. It challenges the current assumptions of the whole western church leadership culture – and ultimately invites us to step out of that latest leadership conference or seminar with all of its fine tips and dashing powerpoints and simply join the dance as first followers of Jesus.
His book begins by taking us to the Sasquatch Dance Party video that went viral a few years ago (though I missed it at the time):
Sweet observes that the shirtless man didn’t announce or plan or attempt to orchestrate a dance party. He simply heard the rhythm and felt the freedom to move to it. Longer versions of the video show people mocking and pointing at him. Not only does he not care, he doesn’t even notice. He is caught up in the song and in his own dance to it. (And, of course, some would say it was the drugs.)
For Sweet, this is Jesus, and the challenge for us is not to become leaders of the dance, but to have the guts to be that first follower who will join the shirtless man in the dance. The first follower ultimately opens the door for others to join in – and before you know it, it’s an avalanche of participation. Voila, you have a dance party.
Sweet has been called a theological poet – and for me, he is. Reading Sweet is always a bit like following the dancing feather in Forrest Gump. Perhaps not everyone’s cup of tea. But it strikes me as very, well, Jesus-ish.
And so does the message of the book.
Sweet asks us whether or not we have changed Paul’s words, “Follow me, as I follow Christ” to “Follow me as I lead for Christ’s sake.”
Sweet observes that somewhere in the past half century, we diagnosed the church’s problem as a crisis of leading, not a crisis of following. It’s as if we read Bonhoeffer’s Cost of Discipleship and decided we’d rather talk about something else entirely. The event you won’t see happening this year? The first annual followership conference.
Make me a better follower.
Take and read.