Skip to main content

I generally like Len Sweet’s writings. His prose is poetic, practical and probing. Sweet’s books are so rich you can open to any page and find a nugget of insight.
Perhaps my expectations of “I Am a Follower” were too high which is why it left me feeling disappointed. Perusing the back page summary would have alerted me to his agenda. It suggests that Sweet will “take us on a journey from leadership cult to followership culture.”
Sweet takes aim at what he calls the “corporate-obsessed-culture” of the Church. In so doing he endorses a definition of leadership that no leaders I know would ever model in deed or attitude. Leadership is “trying to get everyone else to do what they want done but don’t want to do it themselves.” He says leadership is “overrated” and the Church’s focus on it is a “great tragedy.” Leadership is “an alien template that we have laid on the Bible…” (p. 26) and “leadership literature has been a cannibal galaxy in the church for the past forty years…” (p. 25)
My world is both/and rather than either/or. Its disappointing that Sweet feels he had to be anti-leadership to be pro-followership. For me, this detracted from his beneficial insights into being a follower of Jesus.
That being said, Sweet offers up a masterpiece rather than a “how-to” manual on discipleship. Reading portions of his book multiple times is not redundant, but revelatory. The longer you look at a masterpiece, the more, not less you see; portions of Sweet’s book become deeper not duller, the more you read them.
“With any work of art, the first thing you do is surrender. You let the art do something to you and in you. You don’t sit down in front of it to learn something but to hear its voice. Our first approach to Jesus is to listen, to receive, to get out of the way. Being a disciple is less ‘teach me the facts’ and more ‘hear and obey.’ ” (p. 197)
Sweet doesn’t settle for a programmatic discipleship paradigm. Following Jesus is less about right answers than it is about relational commitment. He argues, “To say Jesus is the Messiah is the right answer to the catechism Q & A, but it is not a solution to any of life’s problems until he becomes Lord of your life.” (p. 140)
“I Am a Follower” is neatly divided into three sections – via (the Way), verita (the Truth) and vita (the Life) – which follow the pattern of Jesus’ declaration in John 14:6. Sweet’s goes beyond the typical “be like Jesus” call to followership. To begin his chapter on “Relational Living” he quotes D. W. Ford, “To present Jesus as primarily an example to us is devastating. If to be like Christ is to be the aim of my life I give up the struggle in despair. If Christ is simply my copybook then count me out.”
“To follow Jesus is not to demand road signs but to respond to the voice of the Spirit along the way. When we do that we discover that life is not a blueprint but a blue sky of possibility – filled not only with order and ordinances but also over-the-rainbow potential.” p. 230
I am a follower of Jesus and am leading others to be fully devoted followers.
Thank you Booksneeze for providing me a copy of this book to read.

Leave a Reply