Posted on: May 19, 2020 Posted by: vudfc Comments: 0

By: Matt Gordon

It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front. –Nelson Mandela

I don’t care if they respect me, so long as they fear me. –Caligula

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Helter skelter. –Charles Manson

I have a dream. – Martin Luther King, Jr.

It’s not truth that matters but victory. – Hitler

Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character give him power. – Abraham Lincoln

Never interrupt your enemy when he is making a mistake. -Napoleon

Don’t follow the crowd, let the crowd follow you. – Margaret Thatcher

Or as modern leadership author John Maxwell puts it, “If you think you’re leading, but no one is following, then you are only out taking a walk.”

All of the above people marched out some ideology, then turned back to see people standing behind them.

Leaders lead followers. Really doesn’t much matter, movement-wise, if the leader is a hero, villain, or something in-between. The leader stands before a crowd and says things or writes things or does things with two simple words in mind.

“Follow me.”

The leader’s voice whispers it gently or shouts it with spittle as a threat. But it is always said. It coaxes adherents to unity or pushes toward murder and dominion. It is the foundation of every movement ever—those two simple words.

“Follow me.”

Mark 1:17 features Jesus trying the fateful words out. “Follow me,” he says to Simon and Andrew.

Follow and me. Two simple, simple words. But in them is such power—to build or to destroy. Constantly we are hearing this message in our world. Election season is upon us, and candidates will have slogans and catchphrases (much like the ones quoted above), but what these nominees are essentially saying is these two words. Marketing campaigns and celebrities form their brands on these two words. Follow and me.

Two simple words.

One must question the “me.” Who is the person desiring a following? What is this person all about? Typically, it will be power, of course—why else would one need followers but to make something beyond himself or herself happen? So on comes the next question: The power to do what?

Martin Luther King, Jr. dreamed of a world in which the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave-owners would sit down, on the red hills of Georgia and every other place, at the table of peaceful brotherhood. Hitler brought a nightmare of violent dominion. Vastly different visions, but what united the visions was the need for people to believe in them, to carry them forth, to hoist them from mere fantasy to reality. As the purpose is sorted out, so too is the path.

To live as we ought—radiating love and goodness: following the Dr. Kings and disavowing the Hitlers— we must go in for a closer look at the person or idea that is asking for our allegiance and where that allegiance might be taking us.

In Mark 1, Jesus stood before these fishermen with words. He didn’t offer lucrative contracts or slick hype videos. He had only words. These words: “I will make you become fishers of men.”

It is a short sales pitch—the most trustworthy proposals usually are. But it is loaded with the following information that reveals the following deeper things:

  1. Jesus understood people. He promises to give them “more.” This is so very human. Think of how much money you presently make. Don’t announce it or anything, but think of the figure. Would you prefer to make more than that or less? All the non-sociopaths agree: more! Would you like more or less love in your life? More or less responsibilities/trust? Humans are always longing for more good things—this is why we are content with our homes for about five minutes before we start tinkering with them. Perhaps this is why that during a pandemic places like Lowe’s are absolutely crushing it? Certainly it is a basis for why stores like Lowe’s even exist. We want more and better—and Jesus offers that.
  2. People want to be part of something bigger than themselves. Fishing provided that for these men, sure. They would catch fish and feed their families and others. They would sell the fish, making them part of the local economy. But Jesus offers them something even bigger than that. He offers them to go beyond fish to humans—to be part of a movement.
  3. People want to be competent. Jesus didn’t promise them to become, say, data engineers. His “marks” would have been struck by inadequacy at the unknown futuristic notion. What is data? Can I possibly do that? Sounds hard and weird. No, Jesus encourages them to take on a new job that has comparison points in their old jobs—ones they understood and had competency in. This would be like him saying, “You already have much of what you will need to be valuable members of this team!”
  4. People want order. The internet bulges with articles about management. Companies rely on managers to help employees flourish—to encourage, inspire, direct, rebuke, incentivize, and more. And with all the training mechanisms and retreats and books on the topic, one might surmise that we aren’t all that great at it naturally. But good direction matters. And good direction is not passive. It doesn’t fade to the back or busy itself with other priorities. It is hands-on. In this scene, Jesus promises to “make” these men fishers of men, not hand them a manual and arrange a conference call at a later date. There will be guidance, direction, and order along the way–a route to follow.
  5. People want motion that leads toward a destination. Implicit in a follow me statement is a destination. Jesus wants to take these two people, and many others, somewhere. He wants to bring about a change in the world and a change in them. There is a challenging goal in mind.

Sometimes people wonder about the next line, “The men immediately dropped their nets and followed him.” It seems so instant, like such a drastic leap. The believing sort often says, “Well, God knows, after all.” And that is probably good and true. But if that were solely the case, no need to say a word (much less two!), just plant a divine impulse sprung by a divine button pushed in some divine locale. Instead, Jesus spoke into the deep-seated needs and wants of these working men. In the invitation, we witness universal desires. Jesus promised them a future and a hope and made the path to play very, very simple:

Step One: Follow me

Step two: See step one

Humans are story-telling creatures. But more than that, we are story-yearning beings. We don’t just want to tell stories; we want to be part of them. This is evident in every selfie, graduation, and romance. For all their meaning, weddings are most meaningful to the two vowing lives together: for these two are culminating one story and starting a new one; they are central characters in some exciting new narrative.

The story of any great movement—whether for good or evil—holds interest and layered complexity. But trace it back to its humble origins, and one will find a simple “follow me” statement that is loaded with direct vision of life-enhancing, world-enriching, or power-inducing story.

Leaders lead followers. Really doesn’t much matter, movement-wise, if the leader is a hero, villain, or something in-between. The leader stands before a crowd and says things or writes things or does things with two simple words in mind.

In this scene Jesus gains his first followers. It is staggering to think that millions across ages would join the movement—staggering to wonder at how it sparked, persisted, and endured. Two simple words change everything.

“Follow me.”

This post is part of a series called Mark: My Words. To read the preceding post in the series, click here.


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