Wednesday, December 28, 2011

I Am a Follower by Leonard Sweet

“Jesus invites us all to dance...” (26) All it takes is one to start, to lead, and others will follow. “Jesus leads us in a new dance of human connection under divine direction.” (27) Too often our churches just want us to concentrate on dancing lessons. Sometimes we would just rather be dancing judges.
“This book is about those who would dance the way, the truth, and the life of Jesus. About those brave and courageous first followers who first step forth to join the dance. They are the way pavers, those willing to play the first fool.” (27)
Sweet doesn't want us to be better leaders. He wants us to be better followers. “Jesus is the leader.” “We are his followers.” (41)
We've developed a celebrity cult culture. But Jesus said we are to be different. “And even when we must lead, he calls us to lead in a different way – from behind.” (48)
“A follower is one who has said yes to being chosen and announces that human chosenness to the world.” (60) “The key issue for Jesus followers ir our ability to spot where 'he is in the world today' and our agility in conjoining ourselves to the living Christ. Aligning one's life with the attributes and activities of God is the highest form of holiness.” (61)
The rest of the book is organized into three parts to reflect Jesus' three-part story: the way, the truth, and the life. Sweet identifies the natural progression Jesus proposed: first belonging (way), then believing (truth), then behaving (life). “When Jesus summoned people into the way, he was inviting them to share a purpose or path (way), a new set of relationships (truth), and the beauty of community (life).” (64)
Sweet is quick to point out, “But we don't first get it right and then follow Jesus.” (79) We follow and then it makes sense. Following Jesus is just that. It is not worrying about the future or even survival.
“For the most part, the Father's business has been replaced by the corporate business of the church, patterned after the business world itself.” (95) Sweet would rather see “pedestrian churches, consisting of people who walk with Jesus, “...because much of the so-called wisdom of corporate culture directly contradicts the ways and means of Jesus and his kingdom.” (101) We are supposed to be in the disciple-making business, not the church-making business.
Sweet notes that Christians should be casters of the fruit of the Spirit. For example, “Followers of Jesus should be the most at-peace people on the face of the earth. Sadly, quite often, we seem to be the most nervous and agitated bunch around.” (133)
In part two, Sweet reminds us Jesus is the Truth. We follow the path Jesus has made for us, even though we may not know where we are going. It takes daily work and practice. “Confession of sin and recognition of weakness lie at the heart of a followership culture.” (183) We don't need to hide our weaknesses, our imperfection. “Whatever God calls you to do, it's going to be bigger than you are.” (188)
Sweet emphasizes the priesthood of all believers. We don't need more larger-than-life leaders. We need more down-to-earth followers.
In part three, Sweet writes, “To be a follower of Jesus is to share his life and his cross, to live not only as a disciple of his teaching but as a continuing incarnation of his life, death, and resurrection.” (211) “To be an incarnational disciple of Christ is to make Christ's way your way, Christ's truth your truth, Christ's life your life.” (212)
Following Jesus doesn't just happen. “You have to be schooled in following Jesus.” (214) It takes disciples to make disciples.
We are fully human. “To walk with Jesus is to embrace both the pain and the joy of life in all its fullness...” (243)

Included at the end of each division of the book is an extensive study section. These questions make this book a good selection for small group study.

Thomas Nelson Publishers, 240 pages. Publisher product information.

I received an egalley of this book from Thomas Nelson for the purpose of this review.

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