I’ve been reading Brian McLaren’s Finding Our Way Again – the Return of the Ancient Practices. The book looks at early spiritual practices (fixed-hour prayer, fasting, observing the Sabbath) as ways to nurture our souls in today’s crazy world. But something he said jumped out at me in relation to my ongoing disagreement with today’s “Leadership” culture.
“The Greek word akolouzein, which means ‘to follow,’ appears about 90 times in the New Testament, almost always related to following Jesus.”
That one sentence captured my attention, because it unwittingly points out a key danger of today’s “Leadership” obsession. The word “follow” in the New Testament almost always refers to following Jesus. But what I see in much of today’s “Leadership” is a very subtle shift from following Jesus (being like Him), to being a leader (like Him) who others follow.
It explains the insistence of reading into Jesus’ clear teaching on being a servant (Mark 10, John 13) the awkward interpretations of “Jesus as team coach” or “Jesus as CEO.” Because if we make Jesus into a manager/leader who knew how to rally people around a goal, we can aspire to be a manager/leader who rallies people around our goal.
And yes, there are leaders in the New Testament – the apostles and other leaders of the early church. But their “leadership” wasn’t focused on “creating momentum” or “developing influence” or “getting the right people on the team.” They served the early church by keeping the new converts focused on following Christ.