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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Book Review: I Am A Follower by Leonard Sweet

I Am A Follower by Leonard Sweet asks us what following Jesus is really about, and if the current way in which leadership is approached is in line with Jesus' intention, example, Word, and guidance.  Sweet proposes that instead of more leaders what the church needs is First Followers- those who are crazy enough to follow Jesus where ever He leads, regardless of if anyone else is following before them. And then to encourage others to come and join in. One of the key differences of a First Follower is that once the first becomes one of many, it's hard to distinguish them from the crowd. Because there's only ever been one real leader: God Himself.

I can’t recommend this book highly enough. I don’t actually agree with all that Sweet says, but I still recommend every Christian read it, that’s how strongly I feel.  A lot of what Sweet addresses has been what the Lord has been whispering to my heart for years. One insight that made my eyes light up was when he points out that shepherds, the metaphor we acknowledge Jesus uses for the leadership of the church, do not walk in front of the sheep and have them follow Him. Instead, He guides them from behind, driving them on where they may not have otherwise gone.  And the younger sheep may  not even be aware they are being guided by the shepherd, because they are following the older sheep, who know the Shepherd and listen to Him.  This, and not a "front and center" leadership style is what God intended as the model for the Church.

Much of what Sweet proposes are questions, not answers.  I was musing on this, and how that seemed to be the right way to right a book such as this one,  as I read this:
"Jesus was less about giving right answers than he was about getting his disciples to think about the questions- and sometimes wanting them to marinate in the questions without reaching any definitive answers." (p. 221)  Sweet follows Jesus' example in this, and the questions he poses are worth considering.

I found Sweet's references to be very interesting as well. He does not limit Himself to one group of believers, like only evangelicals or charismatics, mainline or even Protestant. Instead, He references all Christian traditions, for good or bad, so that are all directed to look to Jesus.
I simply love this book. I don't know how much change could or even should happen, but I think if all Christians would read this book it would open up healthy and needed dialogue.  I do not know if the kinds of changes Sweet seems to advocate will happen or are even necessary, but I do think this book could open doors to new viewpoints. Any Christian who genuinely loves Jesus desires to be his radical follower; this book helps express that desire and identify conflicts in the Church today which hinder us all from the path of all-out, loving followership.

I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for my unbiased review.

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