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The Four Reasons People Follow

Followership is one of the most important things for a Christian. No person is ever so large as to not be a follower. Because of this, the Bible addresses how to be a good follower. Actually, more is said about following than leading.

“Followership” is Thought Provoking

People have a choice on who they follow. Every person who is part of a crowd is not a “follower.” Jesus had large crowds and few true followers. Some followed Him for loaves and fish. Others followed him with their own agenda in mind.

Membership is Not Followership

I’m part of a church organization. My membership will remain regardless of who is in leadership. But, my being part of that organization does not mean I’ve always been “sold out”  on every initiative.

It was a privilege to spend a few years in a national leadership role with the organization. Every member of the group did not come under my influence. (Recommended reading, Gung Ho by Ken Blanchard.) 

We each make conscious and subconscious decisions as to whether to follow a particular influencer. Is someone who has a title, but does not influence my behavior, attitude, and decisions leading me? No!

Church Attendance is Not Followership

The principle of "followership" is at work in every local church. People decide whether or not to be influenced. A person attending Calvary (Springfield, Missouri) each Sunday is not necessarily following the pastor. Some attend out of social responsibility, family needs, because of their children, or from habit. For such attendees, little of what I say or do is likely to influence their behavior during the coming week. At least - until Jesus works a fresh miracle in them. 

Why People Choose to Follow

Why then do people choose to follow a particular influencer? There are four primary reasons people follow someone's influence

1. They Respect and Trust the Leader.

People may respect an office; they will only trust a person. Unfortunately, in the real world, some respect the office of "pastor," but have little trust in the person who is currently their pastor.

  • Trust is earned, not assumed.
  • Trust gained is not passed down from a father to his son. Every generation must gain the right to be trusted.
  • Trust does not come quickly.
  • Effectiveness elsewhere does not assure great trust in a different role.

Why do people trust?

  • People trust those who act with wisdom. I love this definition: 

“Wisdom is knowing what to do next.”

Wisdom is not the same as having a high I.Q. Wisdom is pragmatic even while seeing the big picture for the longterm.

  • People trust those not recklessly driven by their emotions. Emotional outbursts are to trust what a wrecking ball is to a building
  • People trust a leader who is fair. Even when their own family or best friend is involved. This is someone who, “swears to his own hurt and changeth not.” (Psalms 15:4)
  • People trust someone focused on collective benefit rather than personal gain. Leaders who show off their cars, homes, antiques, vacation itinerary or knife collection, to people of humble means communicate that their "stuff" is a real priority. The leader who talks about Home Bible Studies, visitor count, evangelism, and disciple-making tends to be trusted. 

Gaining trust is not the result of being likable. Nor is trust based on great personal charisma. 

2. Believing that Following a Leader will be a Benefit

People follow because an influencer gives them an opportunity to grow. Not only does the leader challenge personal growth the leader also provides resources by which to grow.

An influencer not only challenges people to pray. Like Jesus, he shows people how to pray effectively. An influencer provides tools on how to deal with marital conflicts and how to be a better parent. Influencers who add value get into the nitty gritty of life. 

People won't follow the purveyor of "blue sky" hope. People need substantive help. They follow someone who gives them such help.

3. They Believe in the Leader’s Vision of the Future

To “follow” indicates motion. Following is not a sitting posture. People want to be part of making a meaningful, world-changing impact. Little visions gather little people. 

Future-sight is non-negotiable. At a church, the vision may be:

  • Our church will reach the lost by teaching 50 Home Bible Studies next year.
  • We will see our children grow up to be strong in praise and worship.
  • In the next year, we will repair the parking lot.
  • We will move into a larger space allowing us to continue growing. 
  • This church will have an A+ Disciple-Making effort

People follow if they can be part of accomplishing something meaningful - even if fulfilling the vision requires sacrifice.

If your idea for tomorrow is to “do the same old, same old,” I cannot follow you. Where there is no vision, the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). I’ll not die sitting aboard a derelict ship. Not when I have other options. Give me a destination! If you do, I’ll help set the sails. If we are becalmed, I’ll take oar in hand to keep us moving forward.

4. People Follow Someone who Treats them with Respect

Unhealthy people will tolerate meanness, maliciousness, disrespect, and abuse from a leader. People who have health won't. Health, as used here is broadly inclusive. It includes:  

  • Mental Health
  • Emotional Health
  • Physical Health
  • Spiritual Health

Respect does not require agreement. Jesus respected the young rulers' right to be wrong. Those who attract followers do the same. The disappearing multitude was never spoken of with disdain. Jesus did not speak cuttingly of Judas. 

Did Jesus ever speak disparagingly of anyone who chose not to follow Him? He certainly spoke negatively about the Pharisees and Sadducees. As religious (and political) sects they were destroying Judaism. He called them out, but Jesus never made it personal. 

Respect is not agreeing. Respect means you recognize the individual as being made in the image of God. Within every person - no matter how wrong they live - exists a seed of faith. God’s mercy and grace exists for them. Jesus died to redeem that person from their sins. Respecting people is part of the ministry of reconciliation.

To know they will be respected means:

  • A person knows he will never be the subject of gossip coming from the leader's lips.
  • Confidences will be protected.
  • Yesterday's counseling session will not be the topic of Sunday's sermon.
  • Guest preachers will not be advised about a "problem" in the church.
  • In the church environment, their children and grandchildren will have the same opportunities as the pastor's children and grandchildren.
  • Nobody ever knows how much they contribute to the church.
  • When all four wheels come off the vehicle called life, their struggle will be met with compassion rather than criticism. 
  • The stains of failure are not treated as a life sentence. They will have an opportunity to serve in a meaningful way.

Will a leader equally enjoy every person? No. However, every person is treated with respect.

Now there is a chance they may choose to follow you.

[Purchasing an item using any link on this blog provides the writer with a small remuneration.]

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