Are you a leader or are you a follower? In high school the guidance counsellor asked that question and thinking about my rank and responsibilities in Air Cadets at the time, I responded “a leader.” The student sitting behind me, also in Air Cadets, spoke up and said “Clarke, you are more of a follower.” After a few seconds thought I said “yeah, I guess so,” which of course proved his point! Would others describe you as a leader or a follower?
As we continue our series “Witness Traits: You May Not Be Billy Graham, but You Are God’s Witness” we ought to remember that every Christian is a witness for Christ. And being a witness is really about being a leader, being a person of influence in the life of others. We even speak of “leading people to Christ” and to do that we must be leaders. Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount speaks to us about our leadership and influence:
13 “You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. 15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:13-16 NRSV)
Here we have three images to help us consider what it means to be a witness and a leader:
- As a Christian, you are like salt which must be fit for its purpose. Salt would be used as a preservative, and so one would expect it to have an influence over what you were looking to preserve. Technically speaking salt cannot lose its flavour or influence, but if it were mixed up with impurities you might call it tasteless and it would not be fit for its purpose. If we are to be salt, if we are to have influence, we will want to be fit for that purpose.
- As a Christian, you are like a light that should not be covered. As Jesus points out, it would be unnatural and counterintuitive to like a lamp to light up a room then hide it. To be a Christian and not have leadership and influence should likewise feel unnatural. Having had our world lit up with grace, we will want to walk in grace and share grace with others. Having had our path lit up with the will of God, we will want to shine a light on the destructive path we see others following. To fail to do so would run contrary to our common sense.
- As a Christian, you are like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden. Cities in Biblical days were full of white buildings clustered quite closely together, they could not be hidden especially when they sat on a hill. We cannot fail to have an influence, we are leaders whether we want to be or not and whether we consider ourselves to be so or not. The question is never if a person has influence but what kind of influence and how far reaching an influence a person has. Consider a father who tries hard to take no leadership at all within his family. His ‘backing out’ will make a terrible difference in his family and in the last analysis you will see that he has had an incredible influence despite attempting to have none. Every person is a person of influence. Like a city on a hill that cannot be hidden, you cannot fail to have an influence, so is it a good influence? As a Christian, as a witness for Christ you have an influence whether you want it or not. Are people attracted to Christ by your life, or repelled from Him?
So back to the first question on whether you tend to be a leader or a follower. If you answered “follower” I hope that you see your leadership potential, that you realise that you already are a leader with a potential to lead more effectively. You are God’s witness, you are salt and light, you are a leader, you have influence. So go and make it a good one!
That being said, I like my Dad’s comment on the current fascination with leadership and leadership development: “We don’t need more leaders, we need more followers.” My Dad has a point, and we ought to consider that while Jesus speaks on leadership for four verses within the Sermon on the Mount, He goes on to speak about following for the next ninety-four verses. The Christian leads others by following Christ. The path to leadership is the path of discipleship. So if you answered “leader” to the first question, I hope you recognise the importance of growing as a follower. That is how we become salty salt and a bright light.
When we follow Christ well we will be fit to lead others to Jesus, we will have a positive influence, and a powerful witness. Are you ready to be God’s witness? Are you ready to follow and lead?