Thursday, January 19, 2012

I Am A Follower by Leonard Sweet (review)

I Am A Follower: The Way, Truth, and Life of Following Jesus, by Leonard Sweet

Summary: In this book, Sweet proposes that Christianity (particularly in the West) has errantly embraced an ethic of leadership.  He asserts that Jesus does not call us to be leaders, but followers.  He uses a metaphor of dancing to explore the nuance of what following means and looks like individually and collectively.  Sweet invites readers to look at the way of following, the truth of following, and living as follower(s).  This book points out the discrepancy between what Jesus calls us to do (follow) and what the Western church is focused on (leading).  In it, Sweet explores what following looks like, practically.

When I first started reading, I was surprised at Sweet speaking against the cult of leadership in the Western church.  Are we obsessed with leadership?  I hadn't really thought about it before.  It can't have been that prevalent if I hadn't noticed, right?
Then I started noticing.
I'd be downloading a sermon and notice ads for Leadership Training.
I prowled through the Christian bookstore and found a whole section on Leadership (no section on followership).
And I began to think Sweet was right.  We do subscribe to the idea that we're called to be leaders.  Even church overseers, he points out, are not called to be leaders - more like first followers.  Only Jesus is our leader.  We follow Him.  (Sweet refers to when Jesus told Peter to feed His sheep.  He was clearly calling them His - Jesus' - sheep.  Jesus is always our Shepherd.)

Things I liked: I liked the cultural assessment and commentary.  I think it's hard to see the holes and gaps in the way our culture inhabits scripture, and it's helpful to have them pointed out.  I found the writing fluid and the frequent quotations and excerpts apt.  At the end of each section, Sweet included Interactives, for further exploration of the ideas in the text.  (I would love to be part of a small group studying this book; as I was reading alone, I mostly skipped the Interactives.)

Things I didn't like: There were a few passages where I found the metaphor of dancing/following stretched a bit thin, and sometimes I felt like Sweet was leaning toward a flowery pie-in-the-sky vision of practical Christianity (if we could all just hold hands and dance, everything will be swell).

In conclusion: Perhaps the biggest strength of this book is Sweet's uncompromising insistence on pointing to Jesus.  Jesus is the way, the truth, the life.  Christianity isn't about politics, social justice, or discovering self.  What's it about?  Following Him.

**Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookSneeze®.com <http://BookSneeze®.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.**

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