I am always amazed with the creativity and persistence of the Christian community. Consider leadership. A quick check on Amazon.com finds over 2000 books available on Christian leadership. All the great authors have chimed in on the latest findings and current studies of what works and what doesn’t in the field of leadership. I’d like to become a better leader, but when I survey all the choices I have no idea where to begin! One of the hottest trends is coaching. There are 646 books available on “Christian Coaching.” There are books on Faith Coaching, Life-Centered Coaching, Leadership Coaching, Transformissional Coaching, Coaching by the Book, and a veritable onslaught of others. They all promise to be just what I need to mature as a Christian leader. I’m not sure. Coaching reminds me of pre-season football practice in the late Nebraska summers. My old football coach was a guy who thought he knew everything about the game, and was too old and out of shape to play. I’m not done playing yet. And besides, he always stood on the sidelines and yelled at everyone. I’m not sure coaching is my thing. So, what is?
Recently, I discovered something I like better than coaching, perhaps, even better than leadership. It didn’t come from a guy with his necktie too tight who sits in a windowless office high up in an ivory tower. There are not 10 principles to follow. It’s not a secret—known only to me. I can’t think of a ten-dollar word to describe it. And, I’ll never write a book about it, so I’ll just call it followership.
Peter knows what it is. And so does Jesus. The very first words that Jesus spoke to Peter along the shores of Galilee were, not about leadership, but: ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’ (Matt. 4:19). Jesus was determined to make followers…not leaders. When Jesus set out on earth to make leaders…He made followers. He didn’t write shelves of books with catchy titles. He didn’t come up with principles to follow, or tricky secrets modeled after the godless business leaders of the day. He simply uttered the words, Follow Me. In the midst of Peter’s busyness, the voice of Jesus was heard. The sound of His voice rose above the sounds of a fishing village. The business of cleaning fish, repairing nets, scrubbing boats, the noisy banter of the fish traders—even the clinking of coins could not drown out the call of God in Peter’s life. “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.” And, Peter did. The process of followership had begun.
Peter continued to struggle with that process during the earthly ministry of Jesus. His priorities wandered between two worlds: his and God’s. Many times he failed. We all do. But, what strikes me most, is the fact that when Jesus wanted to make a leader out of Peter, His first words and last words were identical. Becoming a follower of Jesus is not the beginning of the process—soon replaced by worldly principles—it is the whole process! What started along the shores of Galilee with the call to ‘Follow Me’, ended in the same place…with the same words.
After Peter’s infamous three-fold denial (and subsequent crucifixion of the Lord) Jesus catches up to Peter in the same place…the Sea of Galilee. He’s doing the same thing: fishing. After a miserable night of empty nets, then, a miraculous catch of fish, Jesus issues a call to renewed fellowship and forgiveness. At the end of this conversation, which centers on the priorities of life and ministry, Jesus reminds Peter of something we desperately need to learn about leadership.
Peter is on the threshold of becoming the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He is about to become the central figure in the training of men and women for ministry. What was the final message to Peter, personally? In the last recorded words that our Lord spoke to Peter personally, he says, “You follow Me” (John 21:22).
There you have it. Simple enough. The life and training of Peter is bracketed—in the beginning and the end—with one central command. ‘Follow Me’. That’s my kind of leadership.