Leonard Sweet’s recent book I AM A FOLLOWER challenges common views on discipleship. He points to our love affair with “leadership” as opposed to the biblical focus on “followership.” Whether you agree will probably depend on your definition of leadership. For me, however, Sweet causes needed soul-searching. Here are a few excerpts from the book that highlight his concerns:


“Jesus said, ‘Go make disciples.’ We stopped and built worship warehouses. Jesus said ‘Follow me.’ We heard, ‘Be a leader.’ Paul said, ‘Do the work of an evangelist.’ We’ve done the work of a marketer.” p. 21

“The cry for leadership is deafening amid our social disintegration, our moral disorientation. We have come to believe that we have a leadership crisis while all along we have been in a drought of discipleship. The Jesus paradox is that only Christians lead by following.” p. 21

“Our leader-centric culture esteems leadership over followership. Follower has become a second-class term at best, a term of derision at worst.” p. 22

“To emphasize followership is not to eliminate the notion that we need leaders. It is to flush the definition, concepts, and practices of flesh-based leadership down the sewer they came from. Leadership within a followership culture is a totally different animal than leadership within a leadership culture. It comes from the kingdom of God, with one and only one Lord.” p. 39

“Is there any arena of church life that is less invested in or more in need of reimagining than discipleship training? For too long we have tolerated a-nod-to-God-hour model of preparing disciples rather than the full-fledged school of discipleship training that characterized the original Sunday school. Just as you aren’t born wise and don’t get wise simply by turning the pages of a calendar, so you aren’t born a follower and you don’t become a follower simply by sitting in a pew or a folding chair for an hour a week. You have to be schooled in following Jesus.” p. 195

“I wonder how many Christians can name others who have personally mentored them in their Christian life? Discipled them? Shared their witness and story with them? Fostered a relationship with them in the name and nature of Christ? We adamantly claim we are disciples. But the ‘follow Jesus with me’ invitation, as well as the investment that such an invitation entails, has almost wholly been jettisoned for the ‘hear me preach’ or ‘help me lead’ or ‘help me run my ministry’ invitation.” p. 196