This past weekend T and I were driving to the airport as we passed a billboard that read, “Be a leader, not a follower.”
“There’s nothing wrong with being a follower. Sometimes being a good leader means following others and their ideas when they are better. Why does being a follower have to be this bad thing all the time?!” T responded to said billboard.
She’s right. Why have we said it’s bad to follow? As Christians, we are sending a lot of mixed signals when it comes to leaders and followers and everyone in between. We teach that we’re supposed to “follow” Jesus, just like the disciples did, sans the multitude of faults the disciples held. But we are followers of Christ. Atleast that’s what our mouths say. And so much of the church is about developing leaders, but the fact is that being a leader and a follower are not mutually exclusive. In fact, you have to be both.
You have to be a leader to be a follower and you must be a follower to be a leader. One doesn’t come first, they come hand-in-hand.
I try to teach this to my youth. Be a leader by using your power to create space so those who have long been silenced can have space to speak equally. Be a leader so you can follow those who have traditionally been the colonized and the oppressed and forced into being followers and never allowed to be equal leaders in our world.
If you’re only ever a leader, you only know half the story.
Be a follower that finds Christ by walking alongside others who struggle and those who are forced to follow. Follow because sometimes, others have better ideas than you do and you are needed as someone who can implement the vision of another to better the world.
You have a voice. Use it. But with that voice, lift up those who have only ever been allowed to be followers.
Being a leader means being a follower and being a follower means being a leader.
Following Christ means leading the charge for change to better the world. Following Christ means leading by example in the world, even if you never speak a word. Following Christ means being a leader who listens and nurtures other leaders. Being a follower means being a leader. And being a leader means being a follower.
Go and do likewise.