Leonard Sweet is an engaging author -- a "theological poet" as Shane Clairborne dubbed him. His new book,I Am a Follower is a work of theological poetry.
This book is vintage Sweet -- packed to the hilt with wonderful quotations, poems, and insights that, alone, make the book worth buying. I copied many of them into my journal.
Sweet's primary mission in this book is to challenge readers to stop fixating on leadership, and begin focusing on being followers of Christ instead.
This is a good corrective to the evangelical church which has, in recent years, overemphasized organizational leadership to the neglect of spiritual formation. We need to remember the essence of why we are doing all this in the first place. We are called, after all, to make disciples (followers) of Jesus, who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.
In making his case, however, I believe Sweet goes too far with his anti-leadership rhetoric. His Jim Collins and Willow Creek bashings, for instance, are unhelpful, and actually hinder the effectiveness of his point. Both Collins and the folks at Willow have excellent insights to move organizations forward, and should not be so quickly dismissed or discounted.
Contrary to this author's opinion, I believe we need more good leadership - -not less. Those who lead churches should be on a constant quest to grow as leaders and to improve their skills. The enormous mission before us demands it.
Effective leadership is not the essence of our message -- but it is a tremendous vehicle to multiply it. We can improve our leadership ability by learning from others who lead (both positively and negatively) and there is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so.
Still, despite his anti-leadership stance, I think it's a good read, and especially appreciate Sweet's emphasis on followership first - -which is really what we should be. Followers first and leaders second.
By the way, his challenge to explore what the New Testament specifically says about leadership was an eye opener for me. I plan to use this exercise to spark conversation the next time I teach my Church Leadership Course.