I know what you’re thinking. I misspelled the word–“Eric, it is FELLOWSHIP, not FOLLOWSHIP!” Um, well, the word I am talking about is indeed a made up word and it is the word “FOLLOWSHIP!” Sorry. But, can we talk about it?
The “Followship” are those within the church who follow the leadership. So, as usual, it’s a kind of a play on words, but hear me out.
I have said this for years and I think it bears repeating: “Good leadership in a church demands good followship; and good followship demands good leadership!” This idea stems from several combined sources.
1. The One-Anothers that I talked about in an earlier blog must be taking place in a healthy body of believers. That is, leadership is entering the lives of the followship and speaking the gospel into their lives, but the followship is listening and speaking back into the lives of the leadership. Paul talks about this within the bounds of marriage where he says, “Submitting yourselves to one another out of reverence for Christ” Ephesians 5:21. This should not be a new thought then when we carry that idea into the church. Philippians 2:1-4 gives some clear commands on how we are to treat one another. So, let’s keep that thought in motion and explore another stream of thought.
2. Good leadership has some crucial and vital roles. Elders/Overseers/Shepherds are soul watchers. Hebrew 13:17 gives some stunning realities that leadership in the church of God–yes, human beings with all of their warts and personalities, actually give an account of their shepherding to God and they are to “keep watch over your souls.” Now, Peter reminds the leadership that they are not to be “lording it over those allotted to your charge…” 1 Peter 5:3, so we begin to see some vital roles take shape that God has designed for a shepherd. They are a bit breath-taking.
3. Let’s go back to the Hebrews passage for a moment. Here, the writer is giving some vital roles of the followship–words like “obey…submit…obey..” are all words that are not heard much or accepted much. They are words that really involve trust. Trusting in God first. The writer of Hebrews has just spent 12 chapters putting together a glorious picture of all that Christ as High Priest has accomplished for us and the satisfying results of this Salvation! Now, he is giving at the very end of his letter some short but important imperatives–obey and submit to your leadership.
I like what Mark Devers says in his book “Nine Marks of a Healthy Church” about this. He says: “It is often said that trust must be earned…’Show me your competence to lead, and I will give you my trust by following.(p. 228)'” There is a ring of truth to that, but in all areas of life God has placed us under fallible, sinning human beings who are to lead and we are to follow–no where is this better seen than in a body of believers called the church. This is the role of the followship!
Now, there are several ramifications of this idea that are important to follow-up, but I will reserve that for a later post. Right now, I just want to ask you, “Are you having good followship?” This is a two-way question: Is leadership doing its job of leading and is followship doing its job of following?