In John Chapter 6, Jesus gives some teaching that is described by many of his disciples as a hard teaching and his disciples started grumbling. By disciples I’m not talking about the Twelve, but about the larger masses. It said that at this time, many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.
So we have a situation in Jesus’ ministry where, because of his teaching, people were leaving. Just think about that for a second. Even Jesus had people leave because of his leadership because of his teaching.
But unlike a lot of us where our gut reaction might be to run after them and say sorry and take it back or let me qualify that, Jesus seems to have just let them go. In fact he turns around and in John 6:67 asks the Twelve, “do you want to go as well?”.
It’s hard to know exactly what tone he asked that in. Based on what I know of Jesus, I don’t think he was asking in a fearful tone, because if you read the tone of the passage he’s very bold and very direct and very blunt. I think he was basically making, instead of an altar call, an exit call saying, “You want to leave too, here’s your chance. People are leaving, so go with the crowd. You can. You can pull the plug as well.”.
We know that they didn’t. Peter answered said, “Lord, who shall we going over the words of eternal life. We’ve come to believe and know you are the Holy One of God.” But it’s those words of Jesus, “You don’t want to leave too do you?” that kind of struck me.
I kind of summarized this attitude, this posture, this moment of Jesus as a “follow or not moment”. Jesus knew who he was and what his mission was. He knew who his boss was, the father not the people, and he did what he was called to do. People were either going to follow or not, and if they chose not to follow, he wasn’t going to compromise on his mission on his call or his obedience to the father.
I find that challenging, to be a “follow or not” leader and I want to learn to emulate him more in this area. Not to be a nasty leader who somehow finds comfort in people being offended. That wasn’t the way Jesus was.
Or a person who, when a bunch of people leave the church, we just say “our church is being pruned and we’re going to be better.” No! But so confident, bold in our call, tight with the Lord, in tune with the Spirit and aligned with the Word that we are not fazed when people choose not to follow or even to stop following, to stop joining with us and accompanying us on this journey and on this mission.
As I’m writing this, I’m challenging myself. “Daren, are you clear on who you are, what you’re called to do, who you’re really called to follow, and what the priorities are? It’s more important for you, Daren, to be following the one you’re supposed to follow than to make sure people are following you.”
Now of course, leadership means bringing people with you. But Christian leadership means calling people to follow you, to follow us as we follow Jesus. Never to compromise on our following of him so that others will follow us.
Follow or not. That was the confident, bold posture of Jesus and I want to move in that direction. Hope you do too.