Yesterday I demonstrated that the Bible shows us that people need to be led.
People—you— need to be led. We all do. Let that sink in. My firm belief is this: People are either leading, coasting, drifting, or following. This is why God continually raises up leaders. If his people aren’t being led, they aren’t following. And if they aren’t following, they’re coasting or worse, drifting. But let’s define some terms:
Leading: Inspiring, instructing, exhorting, involving, assisting, or illustrating in such a way that people / groups are given direction and grow in their faith.
Coasting: Riding the momentum from another person’s leadership or a personal mountaintop experience, but not actively building on them. Example: Going to camp and coming home “with a spiritual high” that doesn’t last, or getting pumped up every Sunday morning and watching it wear off throughout the week.
Drifting: Aimlessly going through the motions, falling into unproductive patterns, or not taking initiative at all.
Following: Actively accepting a leader’s lead and taking personal responsibility to walk it out with Jesus.
Leading, drifting, and coasting all come equipped with standard issue definitions. The real “aha” for me lately is the realization that many of us have come to see following in a passive, abdicating-responsibility kind of way. In our individualistic culture, where “there are leaders, and there are followers,” be be a follower is to be a lackey, a drone, a mindless chess piece for the intelligencia. That’s not how Jesus would define following, though. A biblical follower is an active, engaged, and godly participant.
Back to my thesis: At any given moment, we are all either leading, coasting, drifting, or following. If I’m not leading, I’m coasting, drifting, or following. If I’m not leading OR following, I’m coasting or drifting.
Part of me rebels against this. But then I look around, recalling twenty years of pastoral experience with thousands of people, and I know it’s true. And it’s true of myself, because I’m a leader in some areas and not in others. Where I’m not leading, I’m either actively following, or I’m coasting or even drifting. Even when I’m leading, if I’m not being led, I’m leading people in circles, the blind leading the blind.
We all need to be led. By Jesus, yes. Always. But by people, too. It’s up to me to find a leader worth following, and then accept their lead, their mentoring and direction.
Some leadership is direct, like a pastor in a smaller church. Some is indirect, like an author who inspires you or a couple with a marriage you admire. More than fifteen years ago my wife and I were in a Bible study with a couple with an amazing marriage that inspired us. Sometimes during the Study, his teenage daughter would lope downstairs, plant herself on his lap, lean back, and play with his hair. I would watch this happening and pray, “I want that.”
During the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed so many tender and affectionate moments with my daughter (turning 12 this fall). Tears of joy well up in my eyes as I recalled that old Bible Study and realized, “We’re getting there.” The point is, that father’s example has led me for fifteen years.
This isn’t just about parenting, though. We need leaders in every area of our lives. In our marriages. With our parenting. Our businesses. Our prayer lives. Our witness.