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Leadership or Followship?

 ·   ·  ☕ 6 min read  ·  🙋‍♂️ Greg Hinnant


My Dear Friend,

There is a vast difference between leadership and “followship.” Let’s examine it.

Leaders have a vision of where their people need to go and a plan for getting them there. So, they cast the vision and set a course to actualize it, whether that path is popular and smooth or unpopular and fraught with challenges. Inwardly sure and therefore determined, they steadily stay the course, and when their people get distracted by allurements, intimidated by opposition, or discouraged by delays, they call them back to the vision and press on. And they keep doing this, however long it takes to actualize their vision.

“Followship,” however, is the opposite. The leaders follow and the followers lead. Here’s how it develops. The leaders observe what the people want or demand and, afterwards boldly declare their intention to “lead” them to it - not because it’s best for them but because it’s what they want. It’s all a charade, because the leaders are merely following the desires of the people they are supposed to be leading rather than guiding them to what is ultimately best for them. They flatter themselves as being bold leaders and visionaries - Churchills, FDRs, Lincolns - but are nothing of the kind. Instead of being foreseeing, sharp, bold, and competent, they are blind, confused, timid, and tragically incompetent. They can’t cast a vision because they don’t have one. They don’t know where the people should be going and, if they did, would not know how to get them there. So, since they cannot lead, they follow the people they are supposed to be leading. What they offer, then, is not leadership, but followship.

Our current president is a case in point. He is being coerced by the radical left, pulled back and forth by Putin’s whims and threats, and pushed along by whatever is politically expedient. And whenever he says something glaringly inane or dangerously provocative, he is embarrassingly corrected by anonymous, behind-the-scenes advisors who are continuously checking the pulse of the polls. So, since they, and not he, determine what he says and thus how he “leads,” it is they, and not he, who are the true, de facto leaders. He’s just following them and whatever agenda the people seem to demand at the moment. So, he’s not a leader, but a puppet. Various entities pull his rhetorical strings and he awkwardly jumps and does whatever they wish. And this always occurs after they direct or correct him. Far from leadership, this is followship in its purest - or most polluted - form.

And why is he given to followship? He has no vision for his people. And if he did, he has no viable plan to actualize it. He’s lost his way, so he cannot help this nation find its way. So, this nation stumbles on into record inflation, bitter social division, unprecedented political dysfunction, dangerous military decline, and growing international peril. This is what happens when leadership is followship.

Now, my fellow ministers and elders, let’s apply this to ourselves. Are we offering our flocks truly biblical, godly, bold leadership or the pitifully lame, aforementioned alternative? Pause, and think before you answer. And consider these vital components of true leadership.

Do you know what God wants from your people? Do you know where He wants you to lead them? In their devotional life? In their handling of personal trials of faith? In their growth in the knowledge of God and His ways? In their grasp of the Bible? In their discernment of God’s hand and ways and work in their life?

Do you know Christ’s ultimate goal in saving people? The Holy Spirit’s objectives in filling and guiding them? Do you know how God forms Christlike character in their lives? Can you lead them into a very close walk with Christ? Can you counsel and walk them through dark valleys, raging floods, and white-hot fiery trials? If none of these things are real in you, you cannot lead others into them. You can only follow along as the demonic pressures of life blow them first one way and then another. Thus, your leadership is in fact followship.

And even more crucially, do you know the times and what God’s people ought to be doing? Have you studied the Signs of the Times? Do you know Jesus is coming soon - really coming soon? Do you know your people must get ready for His appearing - the great rapture of the church - if they hope to participate in it?

Do you know, are you pursuing, and are you teaching the key spiritual readiness requirements Jesus personally set forth in His Olivet Discourse that give us rapture assurance: be “ready,” be “watching,” be “wise,” live “worthily,” live “faithfully,” and “know” Christ intimately? If not, you cannot lead your sheep into spiritual preparedness because you don’t have a vision of it and are not pursuing it yourself. And if you can’t lead, you must follow. Instead of going before your sheep as the Great Shepherd does, you must follow along behind them as they bumble and stumble their way into these perilous End Times, unprepared, uninformed, and unled.

My fellow Christian leader, I say this in love, not indifference, and acutely aware of my own need of becoming a better leader. But say it I must. Because it is urgent! Because the hour is so late and this church age so close to its end! The next time you hear a Joe Biden press conference and gawk at his gaffes, take a long, slow, thoughtful look at what you’re seeing and hearing. It’s followship at its best - or worst! But don’t stop there.

Go on to the next logical step. Do what you would rather not do. Look in the ministerial mirror. The real one that prompts self-examination, not the one that makes you look taller, more spiritual, more wise, or more courageous than you are. Ask yourself if you know what’s coming? And if you’re ready for it yourself? If you find you are not prepared to lead the needy, bleating sheep of Jesus into these increasingly confusing, dark, and trying End Times, do the right thing.

Start leading! How? By leading yourself to whoever and whatever will prepare you. Seek those leaders who know where God wants to lead His people in this hour and start following them, realizing only those who follow excellent leaders can lead with excellence. Sit under their teachings. Study their writings. Ask their counsels. Listen to their heart. Ponder their priorities. Envision their vision. And keep at it until you are no longer a timid, unsure, visionless shepherd who can only offer his sheep followship.

Then go offer your people real leadership. Focus on God’s vision and refocus whenever it gets blurry. Speak the vision regardless of who speaks against it or you. And hold tightly to it no matter how impossible its fulfillment may seem, knowing the God who gave it will fulfill it. Or, as Jesus said, “The scriptures must be fulfilled” (Mark 14:49). Such true, stable leadership has never been more needed. And it will only become more vital as we move toward the fast-approaching Parousia.

For true leadership,
Greg Hinnant

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Odunayo Rotimi
Greg Hinnant
As a speaker, Greg has for many years ministered in churches, schools, and conferences across America and abroad.