Seen Any Good Followers Lately
“Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower” according to Steve Jobs. Some unknown sage wrote, “You’re unique don’t be a follower be a leader.” Actress Jennifer Lawrence shared this piece of advice: “Be strong. Don’t be a follower. Always do the right thing.”
According to these quotes one would get the idea that being a follower is a bad thing to be avoided. But how does one get to be a good leader without first being a follower – a good follower. Charlie Munger wrote, “you have to learn to be a follower before you become a leader.” Aristotle said, “He who cannot be a good follower cannot be a good leader.”
Once a young lady had to write an essay for her consideration of acceptance into a university. The essay topic was: “are you a leader?” Being honest about who she was, she had to write the essay saying that she did not consider herself to be a good leader, but felt she was a very good follower. After mailing off the packet to the university, she thought her chance of acceptance was nil. Until the day arrived when a letter of acceptance came in the mail. The university explained that they had received essays from over five thousand prospective students all claiming to have great leadership skills. They felt that all these leaders needed at least one good follower. So, she was granted a spot at the university that fall.
When Jesus began His ministry, He did not look for the political/religious leaders from among the well-educated scribes, the devout Pharisees, the Sadducees, the priesthood, the Herodians, etc. He called fishermen to follow Him. He called a tax-collector to join the ranks of the disciples. In fact, a “disciple” is one who follows a teacher in order to learn. The disciple is a follower. Jesus needs and desires good followers.
A great many books and lectures have been written about how to be a good leader. But, what about being a good follower. The Bible contains examples and instructions about poor and good followers, just like it identifies the characteristics about good leaders.
Attributes of a Good Follower J
A good follower has a good work ethic. Nehemiah the governor of Judea rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in a mere fifty-two days because of his followers. He said, “so we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work” (Neh. 4:6).
A good follower does his part. Paul wrote, “from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love” (Eph. 4:16; also note Nehemiah 3:1ff).
A good follower will not follow the crowds but stick to a good leader. “From that time many of His disciples went back and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Do you also want to go away?” But Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6:66-68).
A good follower will not blindly follow a leader but will assess the leader’s success. “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Heb. 13:7) Paul said, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
A good follower will make the leader’s role more effective and successful by having a submissive attitude toward them. “Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17).
A good follower will bring other followers to a leader. Andrew found Jesus and then immediately found his brother, Peter. “One of the two who heard John speak, and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which is translated, the Christ)” (Jn. 1:40-41).
When five thousand needed to be fed, Andrew brought a little boy with a sack lunch to Jesus, “One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to Him, ‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?’ Then Jesus said, ‘Make the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. And Jesus took the loaves, and when He had given thanks He distributed them to the disciples, and the disciples to those sitting down; and likewise of the fish, as much as they wanted” (6:8-11).
When Gentiles come seeking Jesus Andrew knew what to do. “Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified” (12:20-23).
A good follower will become like his leader. “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40).
Attributes of a Poor Follower L
A poor follower abandons the work he has agreed to do with the leader. “Now Barnabas was determined to take with them John called Mark. But Paul insisted that they should not take with them the one who had departed from them in Pamphylia, and had not gone with them to the work. Then the contention became so sharp that they parted from one another. And so Barnabas took Mark and sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 15:37-39).
A poor follower disheartens their leader with constant complaining. The children of Israel were like this in the wilderness as they constantly murmured against Moses. “Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: “Who will give us meat to eat?” Look how this made Moses feel. Moses complained to God, “if You treat me like this, please kill me here and now—if I have found favor in Your sight—and do not let me see my wretchedness!” (Numbers 11:4,15).
A poor follower gives up and gives into weakness when the leader needs them most. When Jesus was about to be betrayed, He went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray “He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” Then He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What! Could you not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:37-41).
A poor follower discourages the leader from doing what must be done. “ From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men” (Matthew 16:21-23).
A poor follower abandons the leader for the world. Paul lamented, “for Demas has forsaken me, having loved this present world, and has departed for Thessalonica—Crescens for Galatia, Titus for Dalmatia” (2 Tim. 4:10).
Are you a good follower? If you are, great! How about following Jesus right into Heaven.
– Daniel R. Vess