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Follow the Leaders and Lead the Followers
Pastor Joe Giacometti ©2002

There are people who it seams are born natural leaders. And leadership can definitely be built in to some ones personality. In other words, a person's personality defines whether or not they are more prone to lead than others. But I would say that in most cases, it is from the way they were raised, and their life situations that determine whether or not leadership will be one of their strengths. Their family situation, the people in their life who influenced them, etc. Well, I truly believe that every person, regardless of the above criteria, can be a leader. It depends on who you are willing to follow, and how much of what they tell you and what you learn from them that you are willing to do. In other words, there are very few leaders in the world who aren't in turn, led by someone else, or who haven't been led by someone else for a significant portion of their lives. Often times, the best leaders, are also the best followers. Willing to take advantage of and capitalize on everything they were taught and experienced from someone who led them at some point. It just takes the drive to want to carry that leadership out.

Of course, there are many examples of this in the Bible, which I will get to shortly. But perhaps one of the best examples I can think of is that of a father son relationship. And I say son because that's what I am, but clearly this can be broadened to father child, whether it be son or daughter. A good father, by nature, must be a good leader. Someone who is willing to lead the child through learning the biggest, most important life lessons. Some one willing to teach their child how to survive life while living it to it's fullest. Someone who's willing to love and forgive, but who's also willing to teach and maintain right from wrong, and yes, even someone who's willing to punish. Someone who's willing to let the child to learn from their successes, but also their mistakes and failures and who's also willing to step in and lay down the law when some of these mistakes and failures will bring too much pain or danger to the child. It takes quite a balancing act to be a good father. And even further, it takes humility and faith to be a Godly father. One who is willing to lead their child along a Godly path, and teach them how to be a Godly individual. Teaching them that all the things they have learned and are teaching, come from someplace, the Bible, and that they didn't make it all up. Letting them know that they are leading them the way Jesus led, and told us to lead. This is what truly makes a good father. A wise father. A father whose children will some day be leaders because of the solid leadership they received while growing up. A father like mine. I'm so thankful that my father was this type of father. All of things I just listed I had knowledge of from experience. It is from this guidance that God began working in me to become a leader someday, the reason that I stand here before you this morning. And obviously, quite often I thank God for this.

The father, child relationship is just one example of how following can lead to leadership. I suppose to break it down even further; the bottom line is that leadership creates leadership. In the powerful movie "Remember the Titans," an interaction between a team captain and another upperclassman hits this principal deep. This movie takes place in the early seventies, where segregation is in the beginning stages of being broken apart. In one high school, it is the football team that sets the example of how to integrate black and white when it hadn't been done before, but not without a lot of hard times first. The interaction scene I speak of involves the defensive captain, who's white and another defensive upperclassman who's black, who should also clearly be a leader. The captain is concerned that his player is not taking responsibility for as much leadership as he should be. Both accuse the other of not playing as hard against their own race or coming down as hard on their own race when a mistake is made. The captain tells his teammate he should play for the team's sake, yet the black upperclassman responds, "Team? What team?" Pointing out the lack of unity between the races. He goes on to say, "I'm going to look out for me, and get mine." The captain quickly responds with "man, that's the worst attitude I've ever heard." After a brief pause the boy responds to his leader, "attitude reflects leadership, captain," which left the captain speechless. A truly powerful scene, which is one of the main turning points in the movie.

In many cases, the level of leadership on lower levels is a direct reflection of the leadership on the higher or highest levels. So if there are those of you reading this that are leaders on the higher levels, think about that when considering what you expect out of the leadership below you.
The bottom line is attitude. It's the attitude of the leader that will affect the attitude of the follower. And sometimes it is just the poor attitude of the follower that hinders his results. In the case of God, and us it is always this second issues that is the bottom line. We know our supreme leader is in check with his attitude. It is often ours that is lacking. We need to take responsibility for our own attitudes, and realize that not following a leader like God or Christ will ultimately hurt us in the end. So, we're going to take a look at several Individuals in the Bible, and see how they responded to their leadership.

One of the most important things to realize while considering that all of us are called to lead at one point or another, is that in the Bible God often times used the most unlikely of individuals to carry out his work. For instance, in Judges, we see Gideon pleading that he is an unworthy candidate. In Judges 6:15, Gideon says this, "But Lord, how can I save Israel? My clan is the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least in my family." Yeah, I'd be worried too, if this were all I could boast. But clearly the Lord knew better than Gideon did what he could accomplish with the power of God.

In the New Testament, there are a whole slew of unlikely people Jesus uses to follow him, and that he disperses to spread the good news. Paul, who we'll talk about quite a bit later, admits himself that he is not worthy of the large leadership status that he acquired. In 1 Cor. 15:9, Paul says this, "For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God."

Matthew is another one. One of the original 12 disciples, Matthew was a tax collector before hand. Matthew was a local tax collector, and a man of his occupation in those days was greatly disliked by the Jews for their dishonesty, and how they made a living. The local tax collectors actually had to pay the Roman Government up front to collect taxes. Their job was to collect whatever amount the government asked for. They made their living by whatever else they could squeeze out of the people while collecting. I'm sure there were ploys and schemes and lies and fees like crazy that would help them create quite a bank for themselves. Yet Jesus doesn't go after Matthew necessarily for his strong suit. I doubt his approach was "you know, Matthew, you should come join us. We could really use you on stewardship Sunday." Yet Jesus changed his ways, and he became a follower of Christ that led others to Christ.

Perhaps Simon the Zealot, who was part of a Jewish group, called the Zealots who were fanatical about keeping the Jewish Laws, much like the Pharisees. Perhaps he was another unlikely individual to be a disciple. So, here we have many good examples of how God knows best whom he can use or not. Let all of us always keep this in mind when a question of leadership comes up, whether it be someone else's, or our own.

Now we move on to our two character studies. We begin in the OT, with the story of Deborah and Barak. As we consider this story, we see an excellent example, on both ends, of following a leader, and leading a follower. Let's review the story that was read before. The story comes from Judges 4:6-16. In the OT, God had many good things in store for the Israelites. However, the Israelites did a lot of things to displease God. In one of these instances, the Lord put them in command of King Jabin, a Canaanite king. The commander of his army was Sisera, who greatly oppressed the Israelites for 20 years. As they began to plea for help from God, God called upon Deborah, a prophet, who had become a Judge in Israel.

Of the twelve Judges, Deborah was the only female one. Perhaps a sign of her great leadership to begin with. It was God's intentions for Deborah's forces to attack Sisera and the Canaanite army, and free the Israelites. Deborah, herself a leader, needed to choose a leader for her army. She picks someone who she sees fit, in this case, a man by name of Barak. Deborah requests that he get together a force of 10,000 men before they go into battle. Barak is very smart here. He thinks to himself, "you know what? She's Godly and God Favors her. She's a great leader, and if I used her help, surely it would benefit us both greatly. So he says, "hey, I'm not going to do this without your help."

And on the other end, Deborah, picking the person she saw most fit, realized that this would be a good opportunity to guide him. She too realized that two heads were better than one, and by taking the chance to lead Barak, they could both benefit. They both realized that it was a win, win situation.

This instance from the bible encompasses many aspects of our topic here this morning. Deborah, a leader of God's people, is following the lead of God. She chooses to lead someone she chose to lead, in Barak. Barak, accepting the task of leadership, acknowledges Deborah's leadership, and is eager to receive her help, as he leads the army. There is just following and leading and following and leading all over the place here.

Putting myself in Barak's shoes for just a moment, this is in fact, the very way that I lead in my church. I am a leader, yet I must follow a leader as I go along. I've learned over a short period of time, that my senior pastor is a Godly leader. Of all the leaders I've been associated with in my life, Pastor Chuck is already among the top few on my list as most Godly. He's just an incredible man, with an incredible faith, and an incredible desire to seek and please God. He's shown that to me, and through his example he's taught me many things about how to lead in such a manner. I'll admit that compared to him I have quite a ways to go, and God realizes that, so he's blessed my ministry situation by placing such a Godly leader in front of me. It is my job to be a leader, but it is also my job to realize that in doing so, there is one of the most Godly leaders I've even known that I need to follow.

There is a very rewarding dynamic between Pastor Chuck and myself, and that's humility. A lot of times, pride on both parts can create an unnecessary and harmful tension between two leaders, in this case a Senior pastor and an associate or youth pastor. A senior pastor may see a well-liked associate as a threat. On the other side, an associate may think he beyond learning from his senior pastor and has the wrong attitude towards the relationship.

You learn about these dynamics as you study ministry, and you learn to watch out for them, and how harmful they can be. And as a youth pastor, you pray real hard that the senior pastor is secure enough in himself and Godly enough to not see a well liked youth pastor as a threat, but rather as a valuable team member, and an asset to the ministry. God has answered that prayer with Pastor Chuck in a major way, and it relieves quite a bit of possible pressure and tension.

In turn, it is my responsibility to remember that he is my boss, and I can learn very many valuable lessons from him. I need to have the proper attitude towards him as my leader, even though I am a leader myself. I am very thankful for what I have learned so far, and am eager at the chance to continue serving with him, and learning from him. I'm also thankful that the quality of that relationship is good enough to use as a illustration.

But let us move on now to what may be, more importantly, all of our responsibilities, no matter what leaders here on earth we have to follow. And that is the example of the Apostle Paul. Paul was not one of the original 12 disciples. He in fact started out against the message that the disciples were beginning to spread throughout the land. Paul persecuted Christians. Until one day, he crossed paths with who would soon become his ultimate leader, Jesus. It didn't lake long for Jesus to completely turn Paul's ways 180 degrees. From Christian persecutor to apostle, Paul would soon display the ultimate example of following the leader and leading the follower.

All of the disciples clearly were good examples of leading by following. Paul's life is just the best documented of the group. For instance, Peter John and James were doing quite a bit of work and evangelism in and around Jerusalem. They kept in touch with Paul and his partner Barnabus, and it was agreed that the three men would continue their evangelistic efforts in Jerusalem, while Paul and Barnabus would reach out to the Gentiles and their countries.

In our area, we just went through an incredibly well organized and thought out evangelistic effort in the Luis Palau Festival. Even in the New Testament times, very much of the work of the disciples did after Christ's ascension into heaven, was also very well organized, very well thought out, and very well executed. All in an effort to follow their leader, and lead Christ's followers. It's clear that Paul realized that he needed to follow his leader. He changed his ways to do so, and it was clearly in the message that he taught that his leader was Jesus. If we take a look at his documented work, we can get a feel for how much he realized his need to lead, and the desire he had to do so. He was called to lead, and he fulfilled this to a degree that only the LORD could have been involved in. We can see in Acts his calling. Acts 22:14-21 is the main instance.

In fulfilling his call, we learn just from the documentation in the New Testament that Paul was involved with at least 7 different churches; we can find these from Romans to 2nd Thess., and three different young leaders in need of guidance, which we find from 1 Timothy, through Philemon. Now in our time, our area probably has at least 7 different churches. In Paul's day, it's important to realize that when you talk about a church, you are talking about a whole group of people, either in a city, or a country all very spread out. Seven different areas, stretching between Israel, which is on the eastern Coast of the Mediterranean, and Greece, and further, Rome. A huge distance with limited modes of transport, that's remarkable. Paul's intentions even stretched as far as Spain, that's the whole span of the Mediterranean Sea.

Many of these churches were actually started by Paul. He was a church planter. And of course, he stayed in touch with all of them well, as he wrote two letters to several of those churches, and two letters to at least one of the leaders he was encouraging. By keeping in touch with them, he continued nurturing these churches to develop in the ways of Christ. Leading in the example of Christ. It is all clearly important to be documented almost completely in the New Testament. Paul is an incredible example of how to follow the leader, and lead the followers.

In our lives, we are leaders in so many ways. You may be a president or officer of a company or organization. You may be a director, manager, or supervisor. You may be a teacher, a parent, or a youth worker. Maybe you volunteer as a Sunday school teacher or with me for the youth programs. There are so many different ways in which people lead. You may just be guiding an acquaintance in their relationship with the LORD. That's just as important as any of the above I've listed.

The idea of leadership encompasses a large number of things. It involves followers and leaders; it involves following and leading. All people involved are all these at one point or another. It can be as close to us as a father child relationship or we can learn from so many of the biblical characters that succeeded at this so long ago. We also need to realize that no matter how unfit we or anyone else seems to be as a leader, that God may have different plans, and he can make those plans work. We need to always be mindful of who is in our lives to lead us, and whom in our lives we must lead. It is a cycle that can best be succeeded by following the one true leader, Christ Jesus, our Lord. Amen.