Training seminars and textbooks galore focus on how to lead with compassion, understanding, and authority. What about those who do not serve in a leadership capacity? Are these followers simple sheep, witlessly trailing wherever the leader decides to direct?
Or are following and leading two sides of the same coin, each distinct yet working together to provide a unified message?
Whether the Christian is a pastor or a congregant, an elected officer or an interested attendee, a participant or a pew sitter, the believer as a follower has influence. Those who may lead in one arena may be followers in other areas of church function. Those who are leaders today may very well be followers tomorrow. The church cannot function with only leaders, nor will it survive for long if no one leads. The successful church requires harmony between leaders and their followers.
Much is said about the pastor’s “authority” and how church members should be encouraged to submit to that authority. However, there is an inherent risk when the expectation of submissiveness is one-sided. I believe much church tension can be avoided by following an ideation of mutual submissiveness.
An example of mutual submissiveness is found within a marriage that invests 100/100 into the relationship. Rather than partners taking turns in achieving their individual desires, husbands and wives base decision-making on what is best for the marriage. In this way the marriage always wins; and when the marriage wins the entire family benefits.
Rather than a philosophy of compromise, mutual submission puts the group’s interests ahead of personal interest, foregoing the expectation that followers should surrender to authority without question.
Harmony within group situations, especially where the church is concerned, will be best served when followers and leaders work together for the good of the church—within established roles and protocol—when both leaders and followers put the needs of the church before all other considerations. Mindless authority is as harmful to church survival as irresponsible congregant behaviors.
Mutual submissiveness holds all church members equally accountable. Rather than point a finger at a seemingly errant leader or chastise a church member who falters in a given task, both leaders and followers support one another for the benefit of all. In essence, sometimes the follower may need to lead, and the leader may need to follow.
Mutual submissiveness is a state of mind that is neither confrontational nor passive and is found in Christ’s example. His submission was evidenced in His everyday interactions, culminating in His willingness to die for those He came to serve. He put his followers’ needs ahead of His own and yet knew when these He loved needed stern guidance. Not because they failed Him but because their course of action decreed His compassion and intervention. Both leaders and followers may need to take a stand on a particular issue; however, both leaders and followers should do so with Christ-like submissiveness. Caring more for the other’s welfare defeats the enemy’s purpose of creating division within the church.
Mutual submission is neither confrontational nor passive. Conflict is an inevitable result of human interaction. Yet, it does not need to be destructive. Harmony is defined as separate notes working together to achieve a purposeful design. In music, a dissonance creates interest and its resolution returns the music to a comfortable listening mode.
Mutual submission means that both leaders and followers are clothed with Christ-like character, committed to the cause of salvation, and stand in the gap for one another. When a church demonstrates this Christ-like love, amazing things happen—the body of believers becomes God’s intended light, a beacon to a hurting world.
Award-winning author LINDA WOOD RONDEAU writes blended contemporary fiction that demonstrates, once surrendered to God, our worst past often becomes our best future. Retired from her long career in human services, she enjoys being able to play golf year around. Readers may visit her web site at www.lindarondeau.com, her blog, Snark and Sensibility , or find her on Facebook, Twitter, PInterest, Google Plus and Goodreads.
The author’s latest release, Fiddler’s Fling , like all her fiction, helps the reader realize that with God’s intervention, our worst past becomes our best future.