Leonard Sweet’s I Am A Follower

Many times I had thought that much of evangelical Christian life focused too much on making everyone leaders, which catered to a fleshly emphasis on the priesthood of believer, which is itself a euphemism for radical independence.

If everyone is a leader, after all, who will they be leading?

I had not read anything by Leonard Sweet before, and reviewing I Am A Follower is a jump outside my customary range of authors and titles, and, probably, a leap outside my theological tradition. But stretching is good, occasionally, despite what my aging hamstrings tell me.

Sweet addresses primarily the problem posed when the church adopts and incorporates worldly business practices – especially in the area of defining leadership and training leaders. Much of the book is organized into chapters focusing on the Way, the Truth, and the Life (from Jesus’ self-description in John 14:6) as an encouragement for believers to order their lives around following Jesus.

Sweet uses the metaphor of a dance to illustrate his main point: the first one dancing is considered a bit kooky until another joins in, at which point everyone feels comfortable. Believers should be like those “first followers”, unafraid to swim against the cultural stream.

It is this encouragement for believers to follow Jesus – despite the criticism of culture, family and friends – that is perhaps the strongest point of Sweet’s book. Equally challenging is his insistence that a believer’s influence is not in leadership strengths but spiritual weakness: ‘when you are weak, I am strong’. However, his dance metaphor is sometimes forced and a bit confused (Sweet encourages us to join where Jesus is dancing, but also describes Jesus as being the dance). If such things bother you, skip the Prologue.

I Am A Follower is heavy on illustrations and leaves the reader frequently looking for the point that supports them. The book comes in at 260 pages, and could have been equally effective – without so many anecdotes and illustrations – at half that length.

Modern believers probably could use a bit of instruction about how to be good followers, but Sweet goes a bit far in criticizing leadership, and gives little guidance on how believers follow in a church with biblical offices of leaders (elders and deacons), or how followership works when some measure of organization and leadership is reasonably necessary.

[This review does not address Leonard Sweet’s theological and philosophical views, which are unorthodox, nor does this author or this site approve of those views; discerning readers should examine reviews of Sweet’s broader views available elsewhere.]

Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from the publisher through the Book Sneeze (BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com>) book review program. I was not required or encouraged to write a positive review; the thoughts expressed here are my own.

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One thought on “Leonard Sweet’s I Am A Follower

  1. Rob:

    I share some of your concerns about the book as well. For certain, Sweet gets two thumbs up for pointing towards Jesus and encouraging leaders to be followers first. However, my main critique is that Sweet doesn’t rely much on biblical evidence when describing what a leader (non-leader?) in the church should be like or do. Yes, we rely way too much on leadership techniques rather than the Holy Spirit, but this doesn’t mean that there’s no such thing as a leader in the Bible, especially the New Testament.