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I Am A Follower

Leonard Sweet is currently the E. Stanley Jones Professor of Evangelism at Drew University, Madison, NJ and a Visiting Distinguished Professor at George Fox University, Portland, Oregon. Author of more than two hundred articles, over twelve hundred published sermons, and dozens of books, including the Jesus Manifesto.

His latest book, I am a Follower is a leadership book for anyone who has never connected with leadership books. What I mean to say is, it’s an anti-leadership book.

As a pastor I read leadership books all of the time, and there are a lot of great ones out there. I also bump into a lot of “leadery leaders” who have the expensive jeans, the goatee and the latest Rick Warren book in their back pocket. I try to go to leadership conferences every so often to see what other leaders are doing – to draw inspiration from leaders and to just bask in the fact that we’re all leaders together and isn’t being a leader, fun?

Leonard Sweet’s book is not about any of that, and yet it’s still about leadership, or rather it’s about followership. Does the bible really ask us to lead? Or does it tell us to follow? “Leadership is an alien template we have laid on the Bible.” I tweeted that quote as soon as I read it. That quote resonated with me to my very core. Why is the church so busy to create leaders, to raise up leaders, to hire leaders when all along, we should be making followers?

Sweet explains in his book what it means to be a “first follower.” Someone who takes the initiative to go out into the open, exposed to the world and to begin to follow our Savior the way he asks to be followed. Jesus said, “follow me.” He never said study me, or listen to me, or memorize me, or any of the other frames we have used to feign allegiance. Jesus didn’t even invite his students to be attached to the Torah, “he invited them to be attached to himself.”

Leadership is typically about being front and center, about being looked at, and admired. Leadership is the big chair, the cherry wood desk, the final say, and the loudest voice. Leadership is about privilege, private meetings and private jets. But front and center is not where you will ever find Jesus. In fact the bible says that Jesus often “retreated to lonely places.” Whenever fame and fortune were thrust on Jesus, Jesus quickly rejected them. “To find and follow Jesus, we must decentralize our thinking and decenter everything.”

I loved this book, not because it “taught” me anything, but because it put words to a theology that I have always felt at my core. Don’t get me wrong, I will still go to leadership conferences and I will still read leadership books, but at least now I will remember the real reason why I lead… to create followers of Jesus.

I received this book for free from book sneeze.


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