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‘Followership’ and leadership

Oct 23 2023

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I’ve been considering the concept of ‘followership’ lately. We hear and read so much about leadership, yet one of the greatest leaders in the Bible was David, and he was committed to following, not just leading. One could say that he was a better leader when he chose to live as a committed follower. Which brings me to the story of Shrek, a renegade Merino sheep from New Zealand, who wasn’t a committed follower at all.

In fact, Shrek shot to fame in 2004 after wandering away from the rest of his flock and hiding in caves for six years. When the lost sheep was found, he looked like a scraggly cotton bale with legs and a nose. Shrek was sheared on national television, his fleece weighing a jaw-dropping 27 kg, six times more than an average Merino fleece, which weighs around 4,5 kg, if it’s sheared annually.

While Shrek was widely celebrated for his independence, the reality is that most days he probably struggled to cope. He was vulnerable to a vicious enemy (the sheep-eating parrots of New Zealand are notorious for attacking living sheep and tucking into live flesh). On top of that, his fleece kept growing, making it increasingly difficult for him to walk or see properly, until he became an accident waiting to happen in the rugged terrain where he was hiding out (shearing is caring, guys).

This is all to say that sheep need a shepherd, just like we need Jesus, who calls Himself ‘the Good Shepherd’ (in John 10:11). Jesus says: ‘I have come to give you everything in abundance, more than you expect — life in its fullness until you overflow!’ (John 10:10 TPT). No matter how high we may rise as leaders, we are all still sheep in this sense, and we all need to stay close to the Good Shepherd.

My three points are quoted from Psalms 23, in which David describes God as his loving Shepherd:

  1. ‘THE LORD is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack’ (verse 1 AMPC).

Two things jump out at me here. Firstly, my relationship with God is close and personal. He’s ‘my Shepherd’, not ‘the Shepherd’. Secondly, I’m the main beneficiary of this relationship, being on the receiving end of His provision, guidance, and protection. Shrek the sheep gave all of that up when he wandered off into the wilderness, and although he managed to survive, he wasn’t in great shape when he was rescued.

Proximity to the shepherd is everything. The truth is Jesus gave His life to bring you and me near to God. 1 Peter 3:18 (TPT) says: ‘Christ suffered and died for sins once and for all … to bring you near to God [my emphasis] by His body being put to death and by being raised to life by the Spirit.’ A good question to ask yourself regularly is: where am I in relation to God right now? If you need to draw near to Him again, I encourage you to do so. James 4:8 (NKJV) says: ‘Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.’

  1. ‘He refreshes and restores my soul’ (verse 3 AMP).

Far from the care of his shepherd, Shrek became overburdened by his ever-expanding fleece, which would have been a magnet for parasites, such as ticks, lice, and even maggots. Similarly, our burdens can make us vulnerable to parasitic sins. When we’re worn out and our defences are down, we’re more likely to give in to harmful things and give up on good things. Jesus offers a better option. ‘Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy-laden and overburdened,’ He says, ‘and I will cause you to rest. [I will ease and relieve and refresh your souls.]’ (Matthew 11:28 AMPC).

The Old Testament prophet Habakkuk was at breaking point by the time he brought his burden to the Lord (see Habakkuk 1:1–4). Judah was in chaos and the Babylonians were at the gate. Habakkuk went to the Lord and let off some steam. And God eased, relieved, and refreshed Habakkuk’s soul. Afterwards, Habakkuk was able to write: ‘The LORD GOD is my strength [my source of courage, my invincible army]; He has made my feet [steady and sure] like hinds’ feet And makes me walk [forward with spiritual confidence] on my high places [of challenge and responsibility].’ (Habakkuk 3:19 AMP).

  1. ‘So why would I fear the future? Only goodness and tender love pursue me all the days of my life’ (verse 6 TPT).

Following Jesus, you have the Good Shepherd in front of you, and His goodness and love at your back, which is the best way to travel through life. David writes: ‘But you, GOD, shield me on all sides’ (Psalms 3:3 MSG).

If any distance has crept in between you and God lately, or if you simply want to draw near to Him again, why don’t you pray with me? Lord, help me to walk in step with You. Restore to me the joy and intimacy of my salvation. I want to remain in a close-knit relationship with You. Amen.