“Having the Proper Foundation – Being An Excellent Follower”
One of the big buzz words today is leadership or leader. There are magazines out about leadership, there are approximately 182,000,000 websites devoted to leadership, a week doesn’t go by that I don’t get an invitation to a leadership conference, and leadership is being called into question this year as we elect a new president and other political officials. Leadership determines the success of businesses, institutions, churches, and even our own human endeavors.
Interesting as important as we think leadership is Jesus never used the word lead or leadership. On the other hand He used the words “follow me” 20 times. “Why? Leading is not the first step in becoming an effective leader. You become a great leader when you first learn to follow.
We cannot lead effectively without the right direction, vision, and value. When Jesus began to train a team of leaders that would change the world He taught them how to follow; He focused on gathering the best followers possible.
Listen as Randy reads one passage in which Jesus speaks about following. Found in your bulletin is a half sheet of some samples of Jesus’ teachings on following:
Luke 9:57-62 (The Message)
On the road someone asked if he could go along. "I'll go with you, wherever," he said. Jesus was curt: "Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know."
Jesus said to another, "Follow me."
He said, "Certainly, but first excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have to make arrangements for my father's funeral."
Jesus refused. "First things first. Your business is life, not death. And life is urgent: Announce God's kingdom!"
Then another said, "I'm ready to follow you, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home."
Jesus said, "No procrastination. No backward looks. You can't put God's kingdom off till tomorrow. Seize the day."
- Jesus calls us to be people of action and our expected action is to follow. The history of great Christians is not so much of people who believed as it is a history of those who followed.
- The question is “are you a follower of Jesus?” This is the most important question that you will ever be asked. I am not asking the following:
- Do you go to church?
- Are your parents of grandparents Christians?
- Did you raise your hand at the end of a sermon one time?
- Did you come forward during the song “Just as I Am” and left just as you were?
- Is ringtone a worship song?
- Do you say “Bless their heart” before you speak badly about someone?
- Jesus tells of a day when everyone will stand before God. On that day many who confidently called themselves Christians will discover that Jesus doesn’t know them. Matthew 7:21-23 (NLT) 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
- We all need to define the relationship (DTR) we have with Christ.
- Our relationship begins with following. The late Bishop W. T. Handy of the Missouri Conf. of the UMC said that “our main purpose is not simply to add numbers to our rolls but to fulfill the basic purpose of the Church: to make disciples of Jesus. Not admirers of Jesus, Not scholars of Jesus, But disciples - followers of Jesus Christ.”
- As Christians we begin with a relationship that is predicated on us following Jesus.
- Our Christian faith begins with the verb follow. Jesus said to Levi / Matthew in his tax office, “follow me.” Levi could have responded – “sure, Jesus I will organize a Fan Club here in Capernaum and I know we can have some groupies.”
- Jesus wasn’t looking for an administrator or a CEO of His fan club – He wanted a follower that is why He said – “follow me.”
- Jesus never calls for part of us – He calls for a total commitment of our whole life.
- Some didn’t follow Jesus – rich young ruler and others thought His demands were rather extreme like eating His body and drinking His blood and many left.
- But those who followed left everything – even family ties and jobs.
- Words like “wait,” “no,” “later,” are a contradiction to following. If we are following then we get up and pursue Christ in everything.
- How does this play out in the 21st century? The New Testament tells us the story of what it was like to follow Christ some 2000 years ago. What does it mean in today’s lifestyle?
- IT IS MORE THAN HAVING GOOD MORALS. It is more than morality but it is not less than good morals. Let me give you an example:
- I have this friend – she doesn’t go to bars, I’ve never heard her use profanity or obscenities, she doesn’t smoke, she doesn’t cheat and is truly loyal, and when I mention “let’s go” she beats me to the door and wags her tail; she is ready to go. Keeley is about as moral as you can get. She does show some favoritism when comes to Miriam.
- The rich young ruler was more moral than most but wasn’t willing to follow. If you follow you need to keep the commandments. Morality is important but not enough.
- Secondly to follow MEANS MORE THAN CHURCH MEMBERSHIP. It is not less than church membership – it is just more than church membership. To follow means that we are connected to the One we are following.
- We can be real busy with church activities but not be connected to Christ. Following has to be about our connectedness to Christ.
- It goes much farther than biblical knowledge and don’t get me wrong – church membership, being active in the church and biblical knowledge are important but we must never forget we are to be followers. Being a follower requires relationship.
- BEING A FOLLOWER MEANS WE ARE SERVANTS. Christ came to serve and give and we are to be like Him that means we follow Him. Where do we find our avenue of service?
- The specific actions of each follower grow out of the relationship we have with Christ – it is a personal following.
- Example if we are good at teaching little children and that is where we are gifted – Jesus wants us to be followers of Him while we work with children.
- We can become Christ’s followers in the area of our expertise.
- BEING A FOLLOWER MEANS THAT WE FOLLOW. We don’t just tag along we actually
follow / we pursue Christ / we copy Christ’s way.
- Let me pose a few questions:
- Do we follow Christ with our lifestyles? Is how we live reflect Christ? Would Christ live like us?
- Can others see Christ through us even if it means that we go against the current of things?
- Do we follow Christ by seeking Christ’s will in our life’s decisions?
- Do we follow Christ by staying connected with through worship?
- Do we follow Christ by helping in the church and the community?
- Do we follow Christ by using our energy and resources to help him fix what is broken in the world?
- Do we follow Christ with the willingness to carry a cross?
- When Hitler took power – he began interfering with the church and at that time there was a young theologian by the name of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who began to protest and resist the evil Hitler was doing.
- He refused to participate in the state church – several of his colleagues urged him to bend with the pressure of Hitler’s regime. They told him that if he continued he would lose his opportunity to preach. His response was simple and to the point “One act of obedience is better than a hundred sermons.”
- He eventually paid with his life.
- Paul said that the Church is the body of Christ (Col. 1:24). This means that the church is in the business of being, doing, and saying what Christ was, did and said. That is what it means to follow. That takes some organization, some planning and some work – enough to make people tired. You can’t do that from a lazy boy recliner.
There is an old Danish fable about a spider that built its web in a barn. It started spinning a long thin thread and attaching it to a high beam. Knowing that the thread was strong the spider jumped off the thread and began to create a complex web. He was able then to catch flies and other insects and he kept making a larger web and he catching more insects. Months later cleaning his web he discover a long fine thread stretching upward to the ceiling of the barn. The spider mumbled, “I wonder what that is for? It doesn’t catch any flies. Why did I ever put there? And so thinking it was useless the spider broke it and the whole wonderful web collapsed.
Our Christian faith stays strong and vibrant because of the foundation we build beginning with following. Our foundation has to do with being connected to Christ. Cut that thread and we collapse back into a dependence on ourselves – which will eventually collapse around us.
Please click here for slides to accompany the sermon.