I have discovered a new word – followership – and I’m looking it over to discover what it can do. Sort of like acquiring a new tool and trying it out.
It’s really not a new word, online dictionaries say it is almost 100 years old. Yet it is not in any of the published dictionaries in my library and I suspect it’s new to most of my readers as well. It seems to have recently become popular and books are being published about followership. Most of them deal with business and organizational structure, at least one deals with its implication in the Christian realm.
One definition I found online defines followership as the ability to take direction well, to get in line behind a program, to be part of a team and to deliver on what is expected of you. To couch that in Christian terms as it would apply to the work of a church, a congregation, a committee or a project, I would describe it like this: Followership is respect for a leader, a commitment to the goal of the body and a zeal to do all that I am able to do to help that body attain its goal.
I have observed far too much individualism among evangelical Christians, a sense that each one of us has a unique calling and a unique ministry. It is true that each one of us, through our contacts at work and in the community, has a unique opportunity to serve our Lord and Saviour. But if we do not have a commitment to serve the goal of the whole group, we may plunge into these opportunities in a way that will divide us.
True followership is a tool for unity. Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.” That means we must deny ourselves of our self-centred goals, nail them to the cross and follow.
We are followers of Jesus first of all and above all. He has planned that some are also leaders in the church. They are not lords over the followers, we have only one Lord. The leaders must also be followers of Jesus, then examples and also leaders, pastors and teachers. God does not reveal His will only to leaders but to all Spirit-led Christians. That allows leaders to lead in a way that is not domineering, but keeps our attention focused on the goal.