Thursday, May 12, 2011

Following is More Important Than Leadership

We often think of leadership in terms of who has the authority to tell other people what to do. This probably develops from childhood. Parents are the leaders of their families. Children who don’t respect that leadership may receive a few good swats on the backside. But authority isn’t always so clearly defined. There are many cases in which a group of equals choose to follow a leader. Consider the case of a church choir. We could correctly make the claim that the choir director derives his authority from the church, since the church elected him, but the choir is voluntary. Its members don’t have to participate and yet they show up and look to the director for leadership. Maybe a better example would be a small group Bible study. Five or six people decide to get to get together for a Bible study. They are all equals, but one of them leads. That one person may set the time they will meet. He will control the format of the Bible study. He may choose which section of the Bible they will study.

For some reason, that fascinates me. The natural thing is for a leader to be chosen and once that leader is chosen people will follow him. But some people rebel against that leadership, asking the question, “Who gave you the authority over me?” In a way, it is a valid question, but the heart of it is that the person wants the leadership position for himself. We see that question sometimes in reference to the home.” If men and women are equal, what gives the man the right to have authority over the woman?” From the Christian perspective, God gives the man that right. From a more worldly perspective, the woman gives the man that right when she chooses to marry him. In some cultures and even in the marriage tradition of giving the bride away, her parents are passing their authority over her to her husband. But if we ignore that for a moment, for two people to get along well, one of them has to be willing to let the other lead.

Imagine a choir in which everyone wanted to do he own thing. Someone would suggest a practice time, but someone else would change it because it wasn’t good for him. Someone would suggest a song, but someone else would choose something else. If a singer didn’t like how high the notes were, he would transpose the music to suit his voice, but everyone else would sing in a different key. We talk about the need for leadership, but unity requires followers who are willing to submit to the leadership. That leadership may be one man or it may be the democratic choice of the body, but without the individuals choosing to submit, there can be no unity.