I had a hard time reading Leonard Sweet’s book I Am a Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus, though the premise of the book very much appealed to me. Sweet states being a leader isn’t about leading, it’s about following. He stresses the importance of being a follower of Jesus instead of being a leader, which he calls being a ‘first follower’. I agree with him that following Jesus is the most important aspect of being a leader, but the way he describes this in his book irritated me and at some points even offended me.
He’s very much against the ‘leadership culture’, denouncing organizations and events like the Willow Creek Leadership Summit repeatedly and quite forcefully. Well, I’ve attended these and other leadership conferences several times and I’ve often come back inspired and grown in leadership. I get that some people don’t agree with these methods and I even agree with some of the ‘church isn’t a business’ critics, but why make it so personal?
I think Sweet’s message would have been so much stronger had he focused on the validity of his own argument that following comes before leading, instead of constantly sniping away at this perceived ‘leadership cult’. I guess what I’m missing in this book is love for his fellow pastors who are honestly doing the best they can. You may not agree with their methods, but can we at least not judge their motives?
Secondly, I could not get into his writing style. It was rambling, unfocused, unstructured and repetitive. There were some beautiful parts for sure (the epilogue for instance was beautifully written and really touched me) and some of them really spoke to me, but I had a hard time ‘getting’ his points and structure. Sometimes I felt it was a collection of blog posts or articles instead of a unified book.
So did I think the book was bad? Yes and no. I think his overall message of being a Jesus follower before anything else is incredibly important and I couldn’t agree more. Statements like ‘Jesus didn’t come looking for leaders, He came looking for followers’ are truths we need to hear more often. Sweet’s call for a return to real discipleship is a timely and well-needed one. I just think that his important message would have come across better had he written his book more lovingly and with a whole lot more focus.
(This book was provided to me by the Booksneeze program, I was under no obligation to give a positive review)