Let me put my personal prejudice on the table, and then we can all feel free to ignore it: I’m not a fan of Leonard Sweet’s style of writing. Nonetheless, because of the focus of this book, I took a chance on Len’s latest. Sure enough, the first 20 pages (and the last 30, for that matter) had me thinking, “Here we go again.” But the 200+ pages in between are a message that needs to be heard. And it boils down to this: It’s time to stop creating and following “Christian leadership” as it’s become, and start becoming people who follow Jesus.
Leonard Sweet. I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus. 288p, $15.99, Thomas Nelson.
As he puts it (right at the point the book ramps up), “You and I are never leaders, only followers. The best we can aspire to is to become first followers, not followers who then go on to be leaders…. Even when we are summoned to the front of the line, we are still behind our Leader.”
From there launching point, the writings break down into three different aspects of followership: Via (The Way), Verita (The Truth) and Vita (The Life). Really, each section is a collection of short essays that can be read independently of one another. Nonetheless, they hold together well. And he drops some great lines as he goes along. The samples here should give a good indication of where he’s coming from:
“What are many of the most popular Christian leadership conferences but celebrity worship orgies?”
“For the most part, the Father’s business has been replaced by the corporate business of church, patterned after the business world itself. We have lost our passion for the winds of the Spirit and have become mesmerized by the machinery of success and the propellers of prosperity.”
“[W]e don’t think we are the bride of Christ anymore. Instead, we are in the ‘get my needs met’ business or the program business or the feel-good business or the franchise business or the social-justice business.”
And for me, the most poignant, “For the church today to fail in discipling followers is the ultimate failure.”
At the end of each section is a series of “interactives”—questions and/or activities that readers can work through to deepen their understanding of the message of each section. I wish I could say these did more for me, but there clearly was thought put into them so they might work better for you.
So again, no matter how you feel about the writing, work through the message here. Learn to follow Jesus. It’s worth it.