Review: I Am a Follower
It’s been a really long time since I’ve done a book review….but I think I’m going to get back into the swing of it! I have several books on my shelf that I’ve been wanting to read, but between morning sickness, new job, new schedules etc., I haven’t had a whole lot of time to read much of anything.
The most recent book I’ve read is one on leadership….or should I say followership? Leonard Sweet wrote a book a couple years ago called I Am A Follower. Basically, it’s a critique of the general attitude that the church has towards leadership. Why are we so obsessed with leadership? Why does everyone want to be a leader, but no one wants to be a follower? …. Why do we train our leaders by reading books based on leadership in business when many of those principles are falling apart before our eyes?
I have enjoyed this book not because I agree with everything Sweet says (because I definitely don’t), but he does a good job of prophetically calling people (leaders) to be followers of Jesus first and foremost, instead of running after cultural measures of success. He’s asking some of the right questions.
One of my favorite lines is this book:
“In a celebrity culture, leaders are the center of their stories.”
And I think this observation is right on. I can mentally go through a flip file of leaders, and I can tell you who are the center of their stories and who has (as cheesy as it may sound) God as the center. It makes a big difference in how I feel like I can trust and relate to them. While these people may be fun and exciting to follow for awhile, eventually another person comes along who has better stories, and then there’s a new leader to follow.
I do think that Sweet tends to swing a little too far to the other side of the spectrum, though. But, like many who serve as prophetic voices, that kind of thing happens. He tends to think that there is a difference between church leaders and other leaders. I’d argue that there is a difference between leaders who follow Jesus and those who do not. From my perspective, christians who are in business, education, not-for-profit organizations, or the church all have a similar call — to serve, to de-center themselves, to collaborate and create community, to use their gifts and talents for God’s glory and others’ good.
I think his strongest message through this book is that perhaps we don’t have a crisis of leadership in the church, but a crisis of followership. I think while this book is simply one more book that pushes back a little bit against our love for business-style leadership, it’s still another book that is pushing back on something that the majority of leaders haven’t really given any serious thought to. So, if this book reaches a few more, hallelujah.
Would I recommend you read this book? Eh, maybe not. While it brings up a very important question that deserves some serious discussion and thoughtfulness, Sweet’s style of writing is a little too cliche-ish for many of your tastes. I found myself groaning and/or rolling my eyes at some of the “church-sign-like” things he said, and found him to be a bit long-winded. I think this book could have easily been half the size and a bit more distilled.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”