{Site currently under construction. Grace for my mess?}

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Book Review: I Am a Follower by Leonard Sweet

Perusing the shelves at the Christian bookstore about two years ago, I remarked to my husband, "Could they possibly publish another book about leadership? I've seen at least 200 in this place already. Someone needs to write a book on how to be a follower. The church is so inundated with the notion that everyone has to study leadership principles that everyone seems to be forgetting our call as Christians to follow Christ."

When I saw Booksneeze.com offering an opportunity to review IAm A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus, I quickly put in my request. Finally, I thought, the book we all need to help us transcend this leader-centric culture.

Leonard Sweet starts off strong and in the first few pages, delivers a few powerful punches. "The longest distance in the universe is the distance from zero to one," he writes (p. 9). "Show me anywhere in the Bible that says the ultimate goal of human existence is to be a leader. It's not there. […] The church is not led by leaders but by Christ. Everyone else is a follower. Leadership has led us to a place where everybody is trying to get everybody else to do something, and no one ends up doing anything." (pg. 24)

What I would have loved to see was a chapter or two devoted to the why of "followship," and the rest of the book addressing the how. Instead, the book proved not to be a book about following but a book entirely promoted to the argument against the notion of leadership. By the second chapter, Leonard is worked up and slamming the leadership notion into obscure metaphors comparing leadership culture within the church to cannibal galaxies in the universe, calling leadership principles nothing more than cultish celebrity worship, and getting rather spiteful in his position against leadership as a concept.

The book took such a strongly defensive position so early on, and although I was on the author's side before I ever picked up the book, it wasn't long before I felt engaged in an argument I hadn't planned on being invited to. If you are one who believes the church should follow a business-model hierarchy, you may find a mind-opening concept here. If you don't, it may just feel like 288 pages of preaching to – or, rather, battling with – the choir.

The book was a let-down for me, perhaps because I feel the title leads the reader to believe the book will be a study of following Jesus rather than engaging in a theological argument against leadership and would have been more aptly titled 'Why There is No Such Thing as a Christian Leader' or 'Why Bill Hybels is a Sham.' It missed the mark, in my opinion, by being a philosophical exegesis to argue against the notion that, as Christians, we can ever be leaders in any form. He does suggest, nearly as an afterthought, that we can, perhaps, be influencers, but Christ is the only and ever leader. I may have agreed with his philosophy here had he spent any time dealing with either the practice of influencing or of following in particular.

This book's concept could have been a great resource to encourage the Body to step back and remember our purpose, but instead, it arms you with boxing gloves for battle when you didn't realize you'd even stepped in the ring. That said, there were occasional nuggets of wisdom that hit on important truths.

"Pedestrian churches consist of people who walk with Jesus in his journeys on the earth. I am increasingly calling for artisanal communities where success is measured not in statistics but in stories told in an authentic voice." (Page 82)

"We can't force fruit in our lives. That's the work of the Spirit. Our part is to faithfully sow the seed of the Word into our own lives and the lives of others, to cultivate the soil of our hearts, and to receive the rain of God's Spirit upon our hearts in whatever form God sees fit to pour it out." (Page 93)

I have a hard time believing that there is no place for leadership in the church. Call it influence if you wish, but as a woman married to a man who oozes a truly innate ability and desire to influence and point others toward the cross, I can't make the jump into wiping it out of the Church in general. I agree that our focus needs to be on emulating Christ, not seeking our own success or prestige and that, of course, Christ is the ultimate authority and all good leadership done is done under his authority and pointing only to Him, but I believe influencers have a place in the Body as a part of that design.

If you believe everything you hear in leadership conferences and buy every book on leadership principles you find then give this book ashot. It might challenge your perceptions in a way that helps you find healthy footing and examine your motives. Otherwise, skip it and use your time reading the Gospels for instructions on being a follower.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of this book by BookSneeze.com in exchange for my review. I was {obviously} not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are always my own. Read more product reviews and other information about this book here: http://booksneeze.com/reviews/bybook/9780849946387

No comments:

Post a Comment

Your comments are such an encouragement. Thank you for sharing your valuable words.