Leaders and Followers

Hey, sorry, I didn’t mean to drop off the face of the earth.

I ran across this statement recently…

“I think we can agree that there are at least two categories within the NT church according to Paul—leaders and followers.”

Hmmm. I would agree that there are leaders and followers, but I don’t believe there are two categories and each person falls in one category or the other. In the church, we sometimes lead and sometimes follow, and we often lead and follow.

Here’s a bit of dialogue from a recent TV show where a male gay couple were learning to tango…

“So which one of you wants to be the man?”

“I will.”

“Wait, why do you get to be the man?”

“I don’t know, let’s both be the man.”

“Clearly you are both suited to be the man, but in tango, it won’t work unless one person leads and the other person follows.”


“It would be a very bad mistake to think that a woman is less than a man, in a dance or in life. Man and woman play their parts, but it’s equal.”

“Okay boys make up you mind.”

“Come on, Kevin, just be the girl.”

“Oh my god, you can’t do it!”

“If it’s so equal, why don’t you do it!”

“It’s not about being the girl, it’s about following, isn’t it?”

Interesting that in spite of understanding the importance and equality of each part, the dilemma is always about who will lead.

Obviously church isn’t the tango, or is it?

35 thoughts on “Leaders and Followers

  1. I see two categories as well. Jesus is in one and we are in the other. What most people suppose are leadership roles in the NT, are really followers pointing the way to the Leader.

    There are also some very good indications that not all was well in the senior leadership world of the Jerusalem church. The Acts of the Apostles records some sinister conference manouvering and Paul in Galatians implicates the Jerusalem group and makes disparaging remarks about their positions. It seems they became leaders instead of followers. I really think Paul saw the example of leadership in Jerusalem as a example of worldly power—-and he names names.

    Some of current Christian leadership theory is based on this structure in Jerusalem without any regard for its validity. The remainder of the current theories are based on business, political, military, and of course OT practices.

    I’d think that Christian leadership theory should be based on following Jesus Christ. But that’s just me. I want to follow Jesus.

    BTW, Its nice to have you back Grace. I was actually worried you’d succumbed to some sort of disaster.

    1. That’s a good point David.

      No disaster, just the circumstances of my life colliding to the point that they interfere with blogging.

  2. I believe Jesus would want us to find the oneness of our inner self. Were there are no leaders or followers, were the left hand is like the right, and there is no man nor woman just the purity of his love.

    1. Doug, I agree that unity is more important than distinctions that we like to make, whether it be hierarchical or doctrinal.

  3. “… all that a great visionary leader does is awaken and harness the dreams and visions of the members of a given community and give them a deeper coherence by means of a grand vision that ties together all the “little visions” of the members of the group. The fact remains that no one will be prepared to die for my sense of purpose in life. She or he will die only for her or his own sense of purpose. (The) leader is to articulate the vision so that others are willing to embed their purpose within the common vision of the community.”
    – from ‘The Shaping of Things to Come’ by Frost & Hirch

    I really like this articulation on leadership because it recognizes that the church is not to be just a bunch of individuals pressed into a religious mold, rather it is to be a community bound by a vision. Ephesians 4 specifies that Jesus appointed leaders in the church in order that we may reach unity in the faith … attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Christ led by example and by serving. If anyone wants to be a great leader, they must serve greatly. Ephesians 5 speaks of the leadership of the husband “as Christ is the head of the church”. Jesus lead in a manner that the church recognizes His worthiness to lead. He never subjugates the church, He nurtures her. Neither should church leaders attempt to subjugate God’s people. If they do not inspire by example, they are little more than the hired hands that Jesus warned his followers of in John 10:11-13.

    Thus I conclude, the analogy of the Tango works as long as we see Jesus as the example of whoever happens to be taking the lead.

    1. Good thoughts Ken. The church is unique in that it really isn’t up to us to come up with a unifying vision. Jesus pretty much laid out the vision for us, and as you said, gave us the model of serving and nurturing within that purpose. Leadership exists in the actual service of others, not in the assertion of position and titles.

  4. Some people want to be only leaders without having to follow anyone. Others don’t want to lead and just want to follow.

    Both are not very constructive imho…


  5. Grace,

    As a frequent stalker (and heretofore not really a commenter) of your blog it is good to see you back. Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ :)

    As practitioners of social dance (swing dancing and more recently Argentine Tango) my wife and I have often noted the spiritual application of many of the concepts common to these types of dance. The vocabulary is full of words like “connection”, “conversation”, and “counterbalance” (wow, pardon the alliteration) and other such things.

    The part of the metaphor that refers to our relationship with Christ is, I think at least, very apt. One of the phrases used to describe a good follow in these types of dances is that they are “quiet.” This has the practical meaning that they are still enough to hear (and not anticipate the lead/have their own independent agenda) and responsive enough to follow the leads input in a timely manner so as to interpret the music. While no metaphor is perfect, this one does wrap up some concepts pretty well.

    You have landed on something very interesting, though, in extending the metaphor to the relationship we have as the Body of Christ. I think that the dance metaphor is actually very fitting for this, if you will pardon the mild extension of it :)

    One of the central themes of social dance is that, in a very real sense, the music leads the dance and the dancers are interpreters in real time. That is something that sets it apart from more rigid choreography. That being said, the lead and follow, while still following and leading respectively, must be highly connected and (and this is the kicker) highly aware of not only themselves but of their partner. In fact in the best examples of these dances, the phrase “taking care of your partner” is thrown about as an example of the interconnectedness of the two. You are aware of their position in space and time almost as well as you own. Their good is in your hands, and vice versa.
    When it works, it is absolutely beautiful, especially with the realization that it is being done on the fly, created as it goes along.

    Christ certainly is beautiful music and He leads a beautiful dance, the hard part is “mutually submitting” and being connected enough to “put others needs above our own” enough to dance it.

    1. Hi Ray, Thanks for sharing this metaphor. How interesting. I love the ideas of “the music leads the dance” and the sense of interconnectedness to one another. I believe the idea of improvisation is essential to the nature of the Body of Christ and that the ability to improvise and mutually interact has been limited in some ways.

  6. You speak of your Church as it is a brick and mortar place to go, God said the earth is his foot stool, were will i rest? Do you think he meant in a church, or within your heart, the temple you built for him. Look within and find the truth of Gods love. You wont find him in a bible or in the walls of a church, you wont feel him with the touch or words of a priest or preacher, but you will feel him if you look deep within yourself.

    1. Good example David. The geese have been flying over this week. It is fascinating to watch them. Interesting that God would give them this innate understanding.

  7. Your simple statement David is the truth of a world coming, a world that one follows the other, giving strength to the weak, making them strong, its the oneness i speak of , follow that simple truth.
    love always

  8. i hope i am not sharing to much tonight, but it is my belief that organized religion is the most veil obstacle of mankind’s ability to feel Gods love. It teaches fear, guilt, hate, and unworthiness. It will leave u empty and wanting, or u will abandon it to a life of confusion.
    The moment your willing to leave that oppressive world, and realize that Jesus drank that cup of wrath and died on that cross so all of your sins are forgiven, and he is waiting for you to feel his love in your heart, is the moment you will feel peace..
    love always

  9. I like this Grace:

    “In the church, we sometimes lead and sometimes follow, and we often lead and follow.”

    I think that life can probably be substituted for the church. Many who “follow” in church are leaders at work in the community.

    1. Absolutely Ken, as the people of God, our opportunities to serve extend beyond one another and beyond our gathering together, whatever that may look like.

  10. Grace, At this point in my journey I can think of many negative examples of leadership that I’ve experienced and dwell on way too much. There are, however, positive examples that are helpful for me and perhaps others. I grew up fully churched, so the examples go back a bit:

    -a SS teacher introducing me to the love of God and the cross of Christ
    -a boy’s club leader who took me camping
    -a boy’s club leader who encouraged me to progress through the materials and showed me how to encourage others
    -a youth leader who just hung out with us
    -friends who took turns guiding college and career discussion groups
    -a pastor who spent more time listening than talking
    -a tenured professor who volunteered to reduce his salary so that new staff members could have more for their young families
    -a popular and senior pastor who quit his job and became a journeyman trades person so that he could relate to others
    -a friend who invited us over for dinner and showed us some love

    These people are all extraordinary leaders because they’re great followers.

  11. Yes, a tango may be a good metaphor.

    Pereichoresis is the word used by early theological thinkers (like John of Damascus) to describe the “divine dance” between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

    Such is the fellowship in the Godhead that the Father and the Son not only embrace each other, but they also enter into each other, permeate each other, and dwell in each other. One in being, they are also always one in the intimacy of their friendship.

    This “leadership” topic came up earlier today in another conversation. Here’s my comment;

    In healthy spiritual maturity each of us will function as both leaders and followers. Circumstances will dictate. The Spirit will enable and give grace.

    People follow a servant-leader because they have seen that servant-leader consistently put the welfare of others before herself or himself.

    “Leadership” is not command authority (excousia) — only Jesus has that. “Leadership” is founded in the quality of Christ-likeness demonstrated authoritatively (as in source and origin) in the thoughts, words and actions of the individual in relationship with his or her peers.

    What precipitated this particular post of yours?

    Glad you’re doing ok.


    1. Good to see you Tom. I posted about this after reading and thinking about the statement about “two categories” at the beginning of the post.

      Perichoresis is very applicable to this topic. The mutual interpenetration of the trinity is a great example. Amazing that we’ve been invited to join that dance.

      Good thoughts on leadership. I agree that the evidence of leadership exists in the demonstration of service.

  12. “The Pharisees love to be ‘the Man’ when they dance, and love to have folks applaud their machismo. But as for you, don’t let anyone call you ‘the Man’ because you know who the Man is, and you are all my lovely bride and dance partner.”

      1. grace,

        Sometimes I wonder if today’s “girl” is yesterday’s “Samaritan” but that’s a topic for another day!

        Just yesterday I found and linked to some great posts on the leadership topic. If you haven’t already seen them, you’d likely really appreciate them.

  13. Grace, did the place you get that quote from explain more how “according to Paul” there are two categories of leaders and followers? I think the discussion here is great responding to that, I’m just curious what passage or other guidance would push someone to see this categorization so obvious we would all agree to it.

    Unless it goes on to say that there are these two categories in Paul and we’re all in both categories.

  14. Wow Grace – I was worried you had disappeared into High School Physics or Chemistry or something – good to see your post.

    Most so called “leaders” aren’t going anywhere – and nobody’s following them. So maybe there are three categories. Those going somewhere – those following – and those on a treadmill who are wearing themselves out thinking they are going somewhere. If we’re really going somewhere – I don’t mind following at all.

    1. When walking together, it seems unrealistic to expect one person to carry all of the responsibility for leading when it is likely that the gifts needed are to be found within the group and shared with one another.

  15. This is insightful Grace..

    “When walking together”

    ..it reminds me of our divine Paraclete who is called along side of us to lead and help us. Interesting how different man’s view of leadership is to this. Reminds me that Jesus said not to lead like the Pharisees lead.

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