Leading by Being Led

image from ruthgb.files.wordpress.com

Follow to lead.  Don't lead followers.  Become a follower in order to lead.  Sit on this idea with me for a moment…

Henri Nouwen once wrote: “One of the greatest ironies of the history of Christianity is that its leaders constantly gave in to the temptation of power – political power, military power, economic power, or moral and spiritual power – even though they continued to speak the name of Jesus, who did not cling to his divine power but emptied himself and became as we are.” – Nouwen, Henri.  In the Name of Jesus (Crossroad, 1989), 76.

He suggested that instead of focusing on the power of leadership, followers of Jesus should focus on being led.  (In comes the story of Peter in John 21: “You will be led where you don’t want to go.”)  A Christian is supposed to lead others to Christ, lead in the way of love, lead by example, lead their children, lead the world to peace, lead the world in justice, lead…  But any Christian leadership, at its very core and in its very practice, must be in submission to Jesus.

So, I’m hoping you’ll help me compile a short list of what it might mean to “lead by being led”.  Here’s a start… Thank you for interacting with me on this by adding other key points or key scriptures:



1.     FOLLOW JESUS  (Matt 4:19-20; 8:22; 9:9; Luke 12:26; Heb 12:2)

2.     BE WILLING TO GO WHERE YOU DON’T WANT TO GO (Matt 8:19-20; John 21:18)

3.     DO WHAT JESUS DOES (John 13:14; Phil 2:5; Col 3:12-13)

4.     BECOME A NEIGHBOR IN ORDER TO LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR (Matt 9:10; Luke 10:25-37; John 1:14; 3:16; 13:4-8)



  1. Right, Tim! The man is “the disciple whom Jesus loved” – so probably John. We don’t need to compare ourselves to the next leader… but to only measure ourselves against what Jesus has for us. “All I am required to do is follow Him.” So encouraging!!

  2. Ken, I don’t have my Bible with me but I know that passage in John 21 about Peter that you referenced later has Jesus telling Peter to not worry about that man(Judas?)”Peter, you follow me”. This obviously goes along with your first point. To me it means that even if we don’t feel God is using us in a role of leadership like we would like, as long as I am following him, the rest is on Him. All I am required to do is follow Him, where and how he chooses to use me is not my concern. I sure do appreciate your thoughts. Please continue

  3. 6) Serve Altruistically -MT 20:26-28, MK 9:35, Phil 2:5-7
    -This is similar to 3 and 4 but having the mindset of a servant helps in all that we do, especially in leading.
    7)Endure Endure Endure -Hebrews 12:1, Romans 5:1-5, James 1:2-4
    -The Greek word used for “race” at the end of Hebrews 12:1 is where the English word “agony” comes from…we follow a homeless guy that died on a cross! Obviously the Christian life, even more so the life of a Christian leader, is not an easy endeavor. However by enduring and persevering through this “race marked out for us,” we gain great joy and hope.

  4. Thanks Sheila. Good to hear from you and about your family. Blessings to each of you! If you click the graphic it will take you to website I found it on… Not sure if it is original to that website or not, however. I found it very intriguing too. Eph 3:14-21

  5. Thanks for this input, Jay. You are right… and my short list might need to make this clearer. Obedience must be part of following Jesus. This might fit under the category of “do what Jesus does” – but there is an element of “do what Jesus says” also… Please leave your thoughts any time!

  6. I absolutely LOVE that graphic, Ken.
    In my home, I cannot lead my children to Christ unless I first am following Him… as they watch me live out my walk with Him, then there is no pretense.
    BTW, they have both accepted their Saviour, and are learning how to follow Him now, and Jim, well, after years of prayer, he is going to a church regularly.
    I have learned thru these years that it is only important that I follow… it is God who will direct my path.

  7. I feel as though there is a level of uncertainty and faith that goes along with being led. I know there are times when I’m driving in a strange place and getting lost isn’t entirely out of the question. Having a map that tells you where to go and how to get un-lost (real word?) is handy, but only if the map is reliable.
    Obviously, the map can be paralleled to the Bible. We know that Scripture is reliable for training and directing (II Timothy 3:16). As we lead while being led, we need to have faith that God is still in control and that His map is reliable.
    Being willing to go through uncertainty.

  8. Ken, I take it as a given that a Christian leader is to be following the leading of the Lord. If not, then that person is only following his/her own will and not the Lord’s will.
    I am of the opinion that, as we teach people how to lead, we need to teach them how to follow through obedience. If I am not going to be obedient to my superiors, and we all have them, then I am willing to be in submission only to my own will. Without obedience to those over me, I am in subjection only to myself. Jesus was in subjection to the will of the Father. He knew how to obey. He was in subjection to Joseph and Mary and learned how to be an obedient son (Luke 2:51). He learned to obey before he became a leader. I feel we need to teach our students obedience as we attempt to teach them leadership; and Jesus is our perfect example.
    Our world still tries to sing with Frank Sinatra: “I did it my way”, and that is not the theme song of a Christian leader.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.