Too often in the culture of church we focus on leadership and growth models – we have seminars, books, models, techniques, tools, study guides, celebrities and more. I Am A Follower by Leonard Sweet challenges the church that their priority is on following Jesus.
“I Am A Follower” is a new kind of book about leadership paradigms. Its goal is not to establish the five most prominent attributes of a leader nor is it a tutorial on how to become a great leader. Rather, its premise is based on the idea that the best “leaders” point to the true Leader and that we need to recommit ourselves to loving God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength so that Jesus can live his resurrection way, truth, and life in and through us.
The book is divided into four parts. In the first section, the author states his case for rejecting leadership development and instead focusing on pursuing true discipleship. The book invites us on a journey as author Leonard Sweet wrestles with John 14:6: “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” What does it mean for us that Jesus did not simply show us the way or what truth is or how to live life, but that He Himself is the very Way, the very Truth, and the very Life? As Sweet says:
Following Jesus’ lead, this book is organized into three parts to reflect Jesus’ three-part story: the way, the truth, and the life. When we focus on the world’s view of leadership, being a Christian becomes more about blazing our own trail than tracking Another’s footsteps, more about being happy than knowing truth, more about creating a guide to living than accepting the gift of life. When we focus on followership, however, a whole new template for the life of faith pops up:
- To follow Jesus is to be in the right mission—the way: missional living.
- To follow Jesus is to be in the right relationships—the truth: relational living.
- To follow Jesus is to be in the right future—the life: incarnational living.
This seems to be a natural progression that Jesus proposed: first belonging (way), then believing (truth), then behaving (life).
This book, as with all Leonard Sweet books, is deeply challenging, and while I struggled with his over use of semantics, for example, replacing the word “leader” for “first follower”, I wholeheartedly agree with Sweet’s assessment of leadership infatuation within the church and culture.
As always, Sweet has a brilliant and artistic way with his words that captivates the reader throughout the pages. More important than his artistic style, the heart of the book is challenging to the core. I would absolutely recommend this book to any person: “leader” and “non-leader” alike. Our primary goal is not to accumulate more followers of our ideas and thoughts (and Sweet certainly does not intend to earn followers of his own); rather, we have been called to follow Christ. Are you ready to leave the mindset of leadership and enter in the relationship of following? If so, “I Am A Follower” is a must-read for you.