John 1: 35-46 (MsgB)
The next day John was back at his post with two disciples, who were watching. He looked up, saw Jesus walking nearby, and said, “Here He is, God’s Passover Lamb.” The two disciples heard him and went after Jesus. Jesus looked over His shoulder and said to them, “What are you after?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means “Teacher”), “where are You staying?” He replied, “Come along and see for yourself.” They came, saw where He was living, and ended up staying with Him for the day. It was late afternoon when this happened. Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John’s witness and followed Jesus. The first thing he did after finding where Jesus lived was find his own brother, Simon, telling him, “We’ve found the Messiah” (that is, “Christ”). He immediately led him to Jesus. Jesus took one look up and said, “You’re John’s son, Simon? From now on your name is Cephas” (or Peter, which means “Rock”). The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. When He got there, He ran across Philip and said, “Come, follow Me.” (Philip’s hometown was Bethsaida, the same as Andrew and Peter.) Philip went and found Nathanael and told him, “We’ve found the One Moses wrote of in the Law, the One preached by the prophets. It’s Jesus, Joseph’s son, the one from Nazareth!” Nathanael said, “Nazareth? You’ve got to be kidding.” But Philip said, “Come, see for yourself.”
Leonard Sweet in his book, A Follower of Jesus, states that we need to re-title those of us who ‘lead’ in the church of Jesus Christ. Instead of being called ‘leaders’, Sweet likes the term, ‘first followers’. To be honest, I really agree with that line of thinking.
In these earliest portions of John’s Gospel we discover three key ‘leaders’ (or should we call them first-followers?) who are ‘leading’ others when it comes to this new Kingdom work of God that is originating with the advent of Jesus.
John the Baptist. Andrew of Bethsaida. Philip of Bethsaida.
As I see it, it’s vitally important for us in the twenty-first century to study carefully the way in which each of these three men go about tackling their ‘leadership’ roles for the cause of Christ. As we discussed earlier, John the Baptist, is a full-fledged ministry overseer at the time of Jesus’ entry into full-time ministry. He has a national reputation and has gathered a good number of disciples around him. In verses 35-39, we find John’s first set of personal disciples leaving his fold and begin their personal treks with Jesus. Can you imagine this picture in similar situations today?
Let’s say two of your key people in your ministry decide to walk away from you in order to follow another man’s vision. How would you respond? If we’re gut honest, many of us would manifest a completely different attitude toward this chain of events than what we find in John the Baptist! But rather than pride and arrogance rising up inside at the loss of two key associates, John seems to display just the opposite, pointing out for his friends this new ministry that is developing under the tutelage of Jesus of Nazareth. Amazing, don’t you think? In other words, John the Baptist is making it his job in ‘leadership’ to actually point others away from himself and his established ministry while encouraging his friends onto a new pathway, one that focuses exclusively on Jesus alone. Brave move, don’t you think?
Interestingly enough, if we look carefully here, I believe we find in John’s Gospel, that same ‘selfless’ attitude toward servant-hood being modeled by both Andrew and Philip as well. While some would argue that defining these two men as overseers at this point of the Jesus-story is pre-mature, I would beg to differ. Especially if you and I choose to define the role of overseer not by the titles we own or roles we play, but by the ‘exerted influence’ any of us have with others in our immediate circles of influence.
So, yes, while Andrew and Philip certainly have no apostolic titles on their resumes at this early point of their careers, they certainly do seem to have a good handle on the influence they have with others when talking about Jesus of Nazareth. In other words, Andrew, after spending a day with the Messiah, had experienced enough ‘influence’ in his life to go home and tell his brother Simon Peter about this man he had just met. Philip, likewise, had experienced enough of Jesus’ influence after only one day in His presence that he was willing to go back to his friend, Nathanael, and tell him all he knew about this amazing rabbi from Nazareth.
But isn’t it interesting that neither of these two men, as highly influenced as they had been by Jesus, exerted their new ‘leadership’ roles with others in ways that arm-twisted or demanded their listeners to respond? In both cases, we find Andrew and Philip overseeing others by being ‘first followers’ who simply encouraged others to ‘come and see’ for themselves. In other words, there was no heavy-duty vision-casting, no manipulative speeches, no flag-waving, baton twirling leadership style that is so commonly used in today’s churches to keep people entertained and marching in our parade. Just a simple, straight-forward confession that points away from themselves and straight toward Jesus. Gosh, maybe this Follow The Leader game called Christianity is starting out right with these guys?
“Don’t look at me. Look at Him.” “Don’t believe it because I’m saying it, come and see for yourself.” “You decide, not based on my words, but what you hear from Him.”
Sounds and feels pretty refreshing, don’t you think? Maybe we’re getting an early look at the New Testament approach to overseeing the ministry Christ has given us? Stay tuned. More examples coming next time.
My prayer: Lord, this overseeing thing in the earliest days of Your earthly ministry looks to be all about folks simply sharing their Jesus-story and then pointing people toward You. Holy Spirit, empower me to simplify my work as an overseer in ministry, transforming my role from being a salesmen/CEO for Jesus to simply telling my story and then pointing people in Your direction. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: How have I taken my ‘leadership’ role in ministry and made it so much more complicated than what I see in the lives of John the Baptist, Andrew, and Philip? Are there practical ways I can remove the ‘leadership’ model I’m so accustomed to in Americanized church settings, simplifying my ministry role by becoming one who points the way to Jesus, thus modeling my work after these early examples found in John’s Gospel?
So what is God speaking to you today as we follow Jesus the Nazarene, the Leader of the Church?
Between now and the end of 2015, we will be sharing with you a blog series we first developed in 2013. We call it Follow The Leader: Re-defining Successful Leadership from the Gospel of John. In order to keep all 46 blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Follow The Leader home page for ease of use. ENJOY!
Click here to go onto the next blog in the series.