Tuesday, April 24, 2012

First Follower

Timothy Dalrymple has a post about leaders and followers. Again and again in scripture Jesus calls us to be followers. Still you go into any Christian bookstore and you will see a ton of stuff on leadership and very little on how to be a follower. This is on being a "first follower." So you are sort of leading but sort of following.

Let’s be honest.  The concept of leadership appeals to our pride and egotism, and the concept of “servant-leadership” appeals to our worldly pride (we are “leaders”) and to our spiritual pride (look at what Christian leaders we are, how willing to humble our great selves even though we are leaders!).  Pride is insidious, and it will finds its way into anything; but I like the concept of the first follower.  (1) It takes true courage and humility to be a first-follower, for you will be thought a fool.  (2) First-followers show others how to follow Christ; they re-present Christ, making him visible to others, showing what it looks like to strive to follow Christ in this context, and showing that such striving is possible.  (3) The true leader gets the glory, and the first-follower celebrates the leader instead of himself.
What struck me is ho much this sounds like the way Catholics talk about Mary.  She is the ultimate first follower. She does seek glory but celebrates Jesus. She makes Jesus visible to others. She shows great courage and humility. What makes her such a great example is that she is not a leader in the sense of holding a church office. He says:
In the New Testament, there are worldly authorities, but no kingdom leaders apart from Christ.
Of course that is nonsense. There is a concept of ordained leadership even in protestant circles. But this idea of being a first follower is different. An ordained leader could do it but so can a humble woman with no official standing. We all need to learn to follow even in ways nobody else has yet followed. It is not either Mary or the church. We need both. We need leadership up front teaching us and praying with us in public liturgy. We also need lay people whose willingness to follow boldly is all the more remarkable because they are not the kind of people the world would see as important. Mary was one of those and gives us the courage to be one of those as well.

They even talk about 4 spiritual types that flow from Jesus. They are exemplified by Peter, Paul, Mary, and John. Peter is the internal church leader. Paul is the one who confronts people outside the church and aggressively evangelizes.  Mary is the humble servant. John is the contemplative mystic. The Catholic church has them all. Protestant churches often focus on one and only occasionally talk about the others.

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