And some were made to be followers

Maybe it’s the occupation I’m in or possibly the fact that I’m an incurable information junkie, but does it seem to you that we are overrun by media for managers, books, seminars and multi-day programs for leadership training. Conferences and seminars beckon aspiring leaders. Success Ideas Teamwork Plans Signpost Showing Business Plans And OrganizationLast week my copy of Inc Magazine came and here’s what took up the whole cover. “Become a better leader in just two days.” Not impossible, but doubtful. Through books and blogs, volumes are written on the topic of leadership.  There is no lack of training for leaders.  But what about training for followers? Is there a demand for training in how to be a better follower?  We could call it followship!

Many years ago, and I say that because it was early in my working career, I had trouble with the concept of following. Not that I wouldn’t follow, thought I was too good to follow, or allowed obstacles to prevent me from following. When I entered the workforce of the serious career minded, it was with the  mindset to aspire, advance, achieve, then retire. Advancement meant stepping up to the plate, with each plate moving me higher on the ladder. It took about 2 years for me to recognize my gift was to be a follower, not a leader; the word ‘Manager’ would never be inscribed on my nameplate and my name would never show up on an org chart. Manager of others does not describe me, but manager of myself does. God wired me to be a leader of my own thoughts and actions –  I aspire to advance and achieve my calling, followship.

I once went to talk to a trusted manager about my role on the team. I didn’t have the experience or the technical knowledge of the other members of my team. This was at a time when layoffs were occurring, and for whatever reason, I wasn’t laid off but was ‘traded’ to another area of the organization. I knew nothing – literally – and didn’t see how I would fit into my new role.  He said to me “Anderson, you need to go home tonight and read Romans 12.”  I was surprised and pleased at the same time.  I read this first, Romans 12: 4-6 “We are like the various parts of a human body. Each part gets its meaning from the body as a whole, not the other way around….. we find ourselves fashioned into all these excellently formed and marvelously functioning parts in Christ’s body, let’s just go ahead and be what we were made to be, without enviously or pridefully comparing ourselves with each other, or trying to be something we aren’t.”

That made sense.  I would never be like the others on my team, but I could use my strengths to fill a role that was uniquely mine.  I kept on reading.  Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”  Pray through it, be patient, and be faithful. I had the easy part while God took care of the tough stuff.

I still read a lot on leadership.  I wish there were just as many resources available for followers as there are for leaders. How would the marketing look for a seminar for followers?  Become a better follower in just two days doesn’t have the audacious drive and stir the same emotion as ‘Become a better leader’ does.  Where are the books and blogs that reveal the significance of filling the role of an expert follower?  When I say 80% of my job is making my boss and my team look good, I say it with conviction.  When I say, “I want to help you,” that statement is authentic.

In my past I have been called a servant leader, the eternal cheerleader, and sunshine.  I have never been called boss or manager.  My constant prayer is that I continually have on my heart, only to be what God wants me to be every moment of every day. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will in Christ Jesus.


Spare Parts

How do you feel about spare parts?  Have you ever bought a cabinet that comes in a million pieces or a model car you assemble and seal with that high octane glue? Does IKEA appeal to you because of the price or because you’re passionate about building a masterpiece for your home out of parts you dump from a box? Have you ever finished your project and there on the floor was a spare part? ‘Huh. I wonder where this part belongs.”  Did the box contain too many, were the directions wrong, or did I follow them wrong? Was that piece critical, or will the item work just as well without it? At that point deliberation is running tracks, speculating what happens now? Take it apart and start over? Quickly scoop up the part with the packing material and throw it in the trash? Examine the instructions and contemplate the outcome of applying a Band-Aid, but without total rework?

I think this describes real life on Planet Earth sometimes. There is no lack of moving parts. From the moment we open our eyes to a new day till the time we close them to sleep at night, we are dealing with components, some that fit, others that don’t. Do you ever feel like that? Lost in a menagerie of irregular parts that don’t seem to fit anywhere? God assures us that he has a use for all those parts.  The Message translation says it best Psalm 139:13-14 “You shaped me first inside, then out; you formed me in my mother’s womb. I thank you, High God—Body and soul, I am marvelously made! What a creation! You know every bone in my body; You know exactly how I was made, bit by bit, how I was sculpted from nothing into something.

When I think of those verses in Psalm 139 it’s like God sorting through a million piece jig saw puzzle, seeing the design, imagining the purpose of each part with all the odd shapes, prongs, and layers of colors – then with His miraculous touch makes a person, like you and like me, unique in our appearance, our gifts, our personalities, our interests; unlike anyone else. Yet, God values every irregular, out of order, messed up part.spare parts 1 Romans 12 is encouraging for spare part people because it affirms that we each are born for purpose; not a purpose but for purpose. Look at a few highlights of Romans 12:4-8 “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function…We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. Prophesying in accordance with your faith; serving; teaching; giving; encouragement; compassionate; leadership.”

Look at the puzzle with pieces missing. Pretty sad, isn’t it? Unless all the pieces are there, the body is incomplete and not as beautiful, and certainly not as useful.

Spare parts? God doesn’t make parts that are meaningless and without value. Every person was handcrafted by the Master; every part created with purpose. Remember Joseph, the adored young son whose brothers sold him to slave traders? They considered Joseph a spare part, not needed. They gathered him up like packing material and threw him away in a ditch – just like trash. A few verses later in Genesis 37:28, they sold him to the Midianites “When the merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekelsof silver.” Many years pass, but in Genesis chapter 45, Joseph, spare part, Joseph, reveals the complete picture designed in God’s mind before Joseph was born. Ready for the happy ending? Genesis 45:4-7 ““I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! Do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you….to preserve and to save your lives by a great deliverance.”

How do you feel about spare parts? If you feel like a spare part, irregular and without purpose, remember that everything created by God fits precisely into his plan. Emotions are fickle unless brought under control of the Master Designer where they are exposed to the truth as Isaiah 40 writes. “God sits on his throne above the circle of the earth…Look up to the skies. God calls all the stars by name. Because he is strong and powerful, not one of them is missing. Surely you know. God lives forever, He created all the world. He gives strength to those who are tired and more power to those who are weak. The people who trust the Lord will become strong. They will rise up as an eagle in the sky; they will run and not need rest; they will walk and not become tired.”

spare parts 2Now that we have that settled, the world is waiting for you – all of you – Ready? Let’s get out there!

Amy Grant, sings Jesus, Take All of me (Just As I Am)