A friend once asked Gandhi a very enlightening question: “If you admire Christ so much, why don’t you become a Christian?” Gandhi’s response was very revealing: “When I meet a Christian who is a follower of Christ, I may consider it.”
It is very sad that Gandhi had this to say. But he is not the only one who has these sentiments concerning “Christians”.
One thing we fail to remember is that to be identified with Christ, we have to adopt His teaching as well as His lifestyle. This means that we have to become good followers of Christ.
Joseph Stowell, author of Following Christ, writes: “Leadership is a temporary assignment; followership is a lifelong calling.” Stowell is pointing out that those who are called “Christian”, regardless of position, are called to followership. In fact, how well one learns to follow will certainly impact the scope of his or her leadership. Here are 5 essential qualities for leaders who desire to be good followers of Jesus.
The key to being a good Christ-follower is to humble yourself and listen and learn from God and others that He uses in your life. Anyone who aspires to be the leader of a team must learn to lead from behind. Leadership is ultimately more about influence than position. A humble person can serve and lead from anywhere. God’s message concerning humility and leadership is very clear: “Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6).
Good followers are content with not knowing everything. They are willing to learn from God, the only One who knows everything. Good followers who become effective leaders remain teachable otherwise they become outdated and irrelevant. Sadly, some leaders care only about what they know instead of what they can learn. Many leaders are more concerned with being impressive with knowledge or information than with substance and depth. I suggest that an effective leader is teachable, pliable, and moldable. A leader must be willing to learn from mistakes, errors, and failures, which are inevitable. It is through life’s failures that God is able to teach, speak and lead us into truth.
To be a good follower and in turn a good leader, we cannot lose focus of the fact that God wants us to be faithful to Him and His calling. We tend to be more concerned with fruitfulness. Committees, church congregations and boards request status reports that are usually judged on the basis of the “fruit” produced. We spend too much time and energy on productivity or efficiency instead of caring about people. Leadership at its core is about caring for people not cultivating numbers. When we get to heaven, the words we desire to hear are “well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness” (Matthew 25:23). Yes, God wants us to be fruitful and faithful; however, as Paul reveals in 1 Corinthians 3:6 it is God who blesses us with fruitfulness. Fruitfulness is about what God does through us; faithfulness is about how we trust God with what we have. Faithfulness is about who we are; fruitfulness is about what we do.
To be a good follower of Christ, you must learn interdependence, the act of being involved in reciprocal relationships with others. A good leader is not distant or isolated from the whole. Leaders must remember their relationship to the entire team and how their role affects each part.
Paul writes to the Church at Ephesus (Ephesians 2:20-22) and states this very important principle: “Having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.” Additionally, Paul states that everyone should be “speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love” (Ephesians 4:15-17). In 1 Corinthians 12:14-31, Paul discusses how each part of the body serves the whole body. As leaders, we must realize that our role is one of service, which reiterates the fact that we are meant first and foremost to be good followers.
An effective leader must focus on being a selfless follower of Christ, not ruling over someone. A good leader is willing to sacrifice for the good of others. Unfortunately, in Christian leadership, many have forgotten that all we have obtained did not come to us because of our goodness, strength or knowledge but simply by the grace and goodness of God. It is by His power and might that all things happen (Zechariah 4:6). In 1 Corinthians 4:7, Paul writes, “For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?”
As a leader, I encourage you to evaluate your leadership style and focus on these five qualities. I encourage you to cultivate humility, teachability, faithfulness, interdependence and selflessness as part of your core values. I truly believe that by doing so you will become the follower that Christ desires and a leader worth imitating for the cause of Christ.