Lead the Follower

It’s frustrating for leaders when followers don’t follow very well.

Moses was an A+ leader, but those stiff-necked Israelites were D- followers, at best.

They grumbled, they whined, they rebelled.

Leading is tough when you have to hogtie your tribe and drag them, kicking and screaming all the way.

Across a desert.

For forty years.

OY.

But what if we flip that thought:

It’s frustrating for followers when leaders don’t lead very well.

What if there are people who would be willing to step out in faith, if only there was someone to take them by the hand and say, “Let’s go!”?

How long before followers are expected to do a little leading?

Jesus’ first words to the disciples were, “Come, follow me.”

His last words were, “Go and make disciples.”

The best leaders still follow…..

and the best followers, lead.

 

 

Follow the Leader

calfI learned how to be a follower when I was about seven years old.  My older siblings were in 4-H and showed calves at the county fair every summer.  Part of their responsibilities in getting ready for show-time was to teach those calves how to be led around a ring in front of a judge.  The animals had to be taught the commands for walking forward, walking backward, stopping, and standing still.

Early in the summer, my sister would put the halter on her Shorthorn calf and they would go for long walks down the gravel country road.  My job was to walk behind the critter with a stick in my hand and whack her rear end if she stopped walking. (Clarification: I’m referring to the rear end of the calf, not my sister.)  Even though I had to watch my step, I remember thinking that it was kind of fun.  I got to spend an afternoon with my big sister and smack a cow every so often.  We would sing our hearts out walking down that back road.

“If you wanna be a Badger, then come along with me…”

*whack*

“by the bright shining light, by the light of the moon…”

*whack*….

By the end of the summer, my services were no longer needed.  The bovine was adept at showing off her stuff.  My sister was pretty good, too.  One year her calf was awarded Reserved Grand Champion at the State Fair.

All this to say: while I’m learning the art of becoming a follower, I may need someone pulling me along, showing me which road to take and how to walk in it.  But I also may need someone coming behind me, making sure I don’t lag — prodding me with a loving whack.

Come After Me

Hudson has his own way of playing games.

Especially the one where Nonnie is down on her hands and knees and says, “Hudson, I’m gonna get you” with a slightly growly but not too scary voice.

He looks up with wide eyes, starts dancing back and forth on his toes and giggles.  At this point, he’s supposed to take off running so I can give chase all around the house.

But Hudson has his own rules.

As soon as I make a move, he runs straight at me.

The little guy doesn’t want to be chased, he wants to be “got”.

If I should do something as foolish as turn around so he can chase me, I look back at a frowning two year old.

Getting caught up in Nonnie’s arms with hugs and tickles is the best part, so why not cut right to it?

The key verse for our Lent study this year is,

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”  (Luke 9:23)

Now I’m wondering if maybe Hudson has it right.

Jesus says, “Come after me”.

Maybe Jesus doesn’t want to be chased as much as He wants for us to be caught….

…in His wide open arms.

It is the best part.

Are You Following Me?

 

twitterIt’s so easy to be a follower these days.  With a touch of the Twitter app on my iphone, I can become a follower, just like that.  I can get a message (or 10) from Beth Moore and C. S. Lewis every day.  (I’m pretty sure someone else is tweeting on behalf of C. S. Lewis.)  If I were so inclined, I could become a follower of any number of celebrities, politicians and athletes. (I’m not so inclined.)  Curiously, this morning I discovered that I have one Twitter follower, which is interesting given the fact that I’ve never actually tweeted anything.

I hope all this “following” on social media isn’t watering down my understanding of what it means to be a disciple.  Jesus defined it this way: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves, take up their cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)  According to Jesus, this is a bigger commitment than checking in occasionally to get a pithy 140-character-or-less inspirational message.  There is no “unfollow” button to hit when things start to get uncomfortable.  Denying self and taking up a cross doesn’t get a lot of thumbs-up “likes”.

Perhaps it wasn’t that much different two thousand years ago.  There was no Facebook or Twitter, but people were still looking for a quick and easy route to eternal life.  The rich, young ruler in Mark 10 approached Jesus with the right posture (“he ran up to him and fell on his knees before him”), with genuine respect (“Good teacher”), with an insightful question (“What must I do to inherit eternal life?”) and with impressive credentials (“all these I have kept since I was a boy”).  But instead of a pat on the back, Jesus challenged the wealthy young man with the concept of sacrifice. That’s where the conversation ended.  We don’t know how long the man considered Jesus’ invitation to sell his possessions and become a follower, but we do know he rose to his feet without another word and walked away sad.

Reading my tweets and liking me on Facebook and even following this blog doesn’t cost anything.  Being a follower of Jesus, however, does come with a cost, if it’s the real thing.

Are you following me?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tax Return

tax dayAre you the type to file your tax return early, or do you wait until 11:58 p.m. on April 15th?  I suppose it depends on if you are getting money back or if you have to pay up.  Just be glad the IRS man doesn’t come knocking on your front door, accompanied by a bruiser with brass knuckles, demanding payment for a fraudulently inflated tax bill.  Imagine having no H&R Block to find you deductions, no tax code to protect you from a corrupt collector, no recourse if you are wrongfully audited.

Matthew was that guy.  He regularly soaked his fellow countrymen in order to line his own pockets.  The Romans used him, the Jews despised him and his family probably disowned him.  His only friends were other tax collectors and questionable low-life individuals of ill repute.

Then Jesus said, “Follow me.”

What made Matthew walk away from his booth that day?  Did he know he was burning that bridge — that there would be no going back if this risky adventure with an itinerate preacher didn’t work out?

And what about all that money in Matthew’s bank account?  The first thing he did was throw a big party, inviting all his sleazy tax collecting buddies to meet Jesus.  A banquet for a crowd would have come with a hefty price tag.  Were there sufficient funds left over to provide for the needs of a traveling band of men and their rabbi?

And why wasn’t Matthew chosen to keep the group’s money bag?  He was good with numbers, but did the other eleven not trust him because of his past?  Was Judas the unanimous choice for club treasurer?

Was Matthew’s old name, Levi, a hint that he was from a priestly family who expected him to carry on a priestly tradition?  Was Levi a synagogue school drop out who disappointed his parents and couldn’t measure up?

Jesus’ invitation to Matthew may have been a call to the taxing business of discipleship and a return to the glorious privilege of sonship.

How to Hook a Fisherman

10 tips for hooking a fisherman from Luke chapter 5:

1.  Go outside.  Jesus was walking down by the lake because He wanted to meet fishermen.  You can’t sit in your pew and expect people to come to you.  Venture beyond your usual circle and see who you run into.

2.  Start small.  The first thing Jesus asked Simon to do was to push the boat out a little from the shore.  Simon could do that.  Begin by asking people to do things you know they can do well.  It makes them feel good and validates their abilities.

3.  Hang out.  Jesus picked Simon’s boat because He wanted the fisherman to be within earshot of the sermon He was about to preach.  You don’t have to get in somebody’s face with the message.  Just get them in the vicinity.

4.  Stand out.  No one had ever preached a sermon in Simon’s boat before.  Jesus did something unusual and unforgettable.  Go ahead and surprise people with a word or an action that takes them off guard and makes them wonder what you’re up to.

5.  Expect a lot.  Although He started by simply asking Simon for a place to sit, Jesus had much bigger plans for the fisherman.  Suggest some outrageous possibilities.  People don’t mind being challenged to attempt great things.

6.  Use their language.  If Jesus had said, “Come with me and I’ll give you a great theological education,” there might not have been any takers down at the lakeshore.  But “fishers of men” — now that sounded interesting.  Use words people can relate to.

7.  Be generous.  Simon wasn’t too happy about taking his freshly cleaned nets back out into the deep waters.  Jesus assured Simon he would haul in a catch — but even on his best day, Simon never caught so many fish that his boats started to sink.  When you give more to people than you have to, it gets their attention.

8.  Reveal need.  When the fish started piling up, the nets broke and the boats started to go down.  Simon may have hit the jackpot, but it only revealed his inadequacies.  Whether a person’s security comes from money, power, comforts, or relationships, at some point everyone asks, “Is the best the world has to give, enough?”  Pose the question.

9.  Stay calm.  After the miraculous catch, Simon was pretty shook up.  He sensed that something was stirring beyond his comfort zone.  When Jesus comes calling, it can be a little unnerving for people.  A reassuring word such as “Don’t be afraid” is a good idea.

10.  Start with one.  Even though Jesus was in Simon’s boat and spoke directly to Simon, his brother Andrew was on hand along with their other two partners, James and John.  At the end of the day, all four men “pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him.”  Invite one person to follow, and he might bring all his friends with him.

Fish Guts

the-jesus-boat-at-the-sea-of-galilee-miki-karniJesus didn’t put an ad in the paper, “Seeking 12 men to follow me.”  He didn’t go to the synagogue school and ask to interview the top 12 students.  He didn’t stay in his hometown and gather up 12 of his childhood buddies.  He didn’t wait for people to come to him asking to be disciples.

Jesus went out to the lake shore because he wanted those kind of people.  Fishermen were hard-working and strong, patient and determined.  Fishing for a living took faith — they couldn’t see the fish under the surface but they had to believe they were down there.  They had no formal education, no qualifications for ministry — yet were well-trained by everyday life experiences.   Fishermen were robust, hardy souls who knew how to work together to pull in a catch.  And they were fun.

I wonder what Zebedee thought the day Jesus came down to the fishing boats and talked to his sons, James and John.  There they were, father and sons, sitting in the boat together getting the nets ready to cast out on the water.  And Jesus offered the boys a chance of a lifetime — tutelage under a real rabbi.  Such an opportunity for simple fishermen!  The Bible says, “…immediately James and John left the boat and their father and followed him.”  They climbed out, waded to shore and were gone.  Immediately.

Dear Zebedee, what did you think?  Were you happy to see your sons find their destiny?  Or were you ticked that they up and left the family business?  James, were you itching to do something else with your life and this was your ticket out?  John, did you know deep inside that you weren’t cut out to be a fisherman?  Did you both feel like there had to be more to life than fish guts?

I hope Zebedee’s sons stopped in and checked on their father whenever they passed through Galilee.

I hope the old man didn’t make his boys feel guilty for leaving home and changing careers.

Jesus said, “Follow me.”  James and John said, “Yes”.  Pretty gutsy.