By Rick Greve, Pastor, New Market Seventh-day Adventist Church, New Market, Virginia
Summary: True followers are pro-active, problem solvers, truth tellers, team-focused, and teachable. To follow well is one of life’s greatest challenges. It is a significant test in our Christian experience.
There is a store called Big Dogs. Its icon is a very big dog with big floppy ears and black circles around its eyes. Its slogans are many: If you can’t ski with the Big Dogs, stay in the boat. If you can’t golf with the Big Dogs, stay of f the green. There’s even one especially for ladies--If you can’t shop with the Big Dogs, stay out of the mall. The emphasis is always on being the biggest and the best. If you ain’t the lead dog, the scenery never changes.
In our society, being in first place is the only place that matters. Climbing the corporate ladder, getting to the top, being re-elected are objectives of a motivated mindset. Jesus challenges that kind of thinking. He says To win, you have to lose; to go up, you have to go down; to live, you have to die; to gain everything, you have to give it all up. Jesus says, If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me (Matt 16:24). When Jesus shared this with His disciples, they were dreaming of worldly positions. The desire for ascendance is a desire of our human nature. It is prideful, arrogant and damaging to the things of God.
True followers are pro-active
The Israelites were growing restless waiting for Moses to return from Mount Sinai. So they approached Aaron (Ex 32:1-4). When followers evade responsibility, there is always trouble. Good followers are not likely to say, That’s not my problem. They don’t bury their head in the sand. They are pro-active and when they see a situation brewing, they head it off before a crisis occurs. Aaron was a gutless follower. He didn’t stand up for Moses and he certainly didn’t stand up for God. When Moses returned to the camp and saw what was going on, he did more than shatter the tablets of stone and destroy the golden calf--He confronted Aaron (Ex 32:22-24). As a follower, Aaron shirked his responsibility and failed to exert the influence that could have averted a tragedy.
Followers sometimes fail to recognize the weight of responsibility that rests on them for their influence. It isn’t uncommon for followers to second-guess, gossip, undermine the cause of God, and cripple the effectiveness of spiritual leadership. Every member of this church is a follower. As a follower, we must understand the weight of our words and the importance of our influence. A good follower is pro-active and in the case of Aaron, his inability to diffuse the situation led to shame and destruction for God’s people.
True followers seek to solve
For 400 years the Israelites were slaves. They dreamed only of liberty. Then it happened. God intervened miraculously. Their bondage was over; their enemy was destroyed; they were given identity, security, and the promise of their homeland. However, instead of gratitude, complain and murmur became the dominant words of the story (Ex 15:22-24). The Greek word for murmur is goguzzo, which, like the words grumble or murmur, is what linguists call onomatopoeic--a word that sounds like what it means. Imagine a large crowd chanting grumble, grumble, grumble!! God intervened again, this time to give them sweet, clean water to drink. But a few days later, we find them whining again. If only we had died in Egypt. We’re not asking for much-- if we just could have had a quick death when our bellies were full . . . if we just had bread, we’d be grateful forever (Ex 16:2, 3). They had raised grumbling to a new art form. This scene repeated itself over and over again. Israel complained. God intervened.
Ingratitude can be contagious. Moses couldn’t stand it anymore, so he took his turn to complain. He spoke to God in words that any self-appointed martyr can identify with (Num 11:11-15). When followers give in to the complaining syndrome, it can destroy a leader. When leaders are filled with this darkness, the whole group can lose life. Joy, energy, and motivation plummet; everybody wants to quit. But good followers seek to solve problems rather than grumble about them. Exodus 18 provides a positive example--Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, who is visiting Moses. When he saw the line of complainers outside Moses’ tent, he braved out onto thin ice with his son-in-law. He gave him sound advice and a solution (Ex 18:19-23). Good followers seek to help leaders by seeking solutions to problems rather than grumbling about them.
True followers are truth tellers
Wise leaders listen to the perspective of followers. However, when a follower seeks to share truth with a leader, he should do it, not with a haughty spirit of I’ve got the dirt on you, but with an attitude of humility (Prov 25:6). We find this attitude in Nathan (2 Sam 11 and 12). Things were going quite well for David. However, in this time of confidence, he had everything under control except himself. That’s when the view from his balcony of a beautiful woman lead to a saga of deceit, immorality, adultery, conspiracy, and murder. Into this scene entered Nathan, the voice of God (2 Sam 12:1-7), who told it like it was.
When John Robinson, the great leader of the Puritan movement, was unable to come to the New World, he said to the others departing for the new world, Follow me no further than I have followed Christ. Good followers follow Christ first. Good followers owe their leaders the truth.
True followers are team-focused
Good followers see themselves as an integral part of the success of their group, but are not arrogant about it (Phil 2:1-4). Do we recognize others and build them up? Do we thank other team members for their contribution to the group? Teamwork also means that we see strength in diversity. Your ideas and your perspective are important, but they’re not the only ones with value or merit. Those with terrific team spirit embrace people who are different from them. Do we value the ideas of young people? Are we open to people of a different race or culture? These members are part of the team and we need to recognize and support them.
True followers have a coachable spirit.
How can you learn and grow unless you’re willing to be taught? Good followers realize that each person they meet is their superior in something. Peter had a coachable spirit. Peter wanted to grow. He wanted to be a good follower. He shuddered to think of Jesus going to the cross and so he said, This will never happen to you, Jesus. Jesus responded saying Get behind me, Satan. On hearing such a response most would stop talking and make a quick retreat. But not Peter. When Jesus washed the disciples’ feet, Peter reacted by saying Wash me all over. Jesus smiled and said, I don’t need to wash you all over; I just need to wash your feet. In the garden of Gethsemane, Peter, in defense of Jesus, cut off the high priest’s servant’s ear. Jesus simply says Peter, put your sword away. My kingdom is not defended by force and might. Time and again Peter put his life on the line and then, when it mattered the most, he denied His Lord. Yet the Lord didn’t give up on him.
True followers are pro-active, problem solvers, truth tellers, team-focused, and teachable. To follow well is one of life’s greatest challenges. It is a significant test in our Christian experience. It demonstrates our faith and trust in God’s ultimate plan. Are you a good follower?