Faith is like a game of follow the leader

Sunday, April 18, 2010

I have yet to meet someone who does not like to play games. Most of us have our favorite games from childhood, like follow the leader, Simon says and dodge ball. The transition into adulthood pulls us away from these games to others. Yet we never completely leave these games behind. We just change the playing field.

Preschoolers seem to have an intense fascination with follow the leader. The pecking order of preschool society emerges in who gets to be the leader and how often. The leader takes the group around, over and under objects just because that is where they want to go. The followers are there to follow. They do not get to offer alternative directions. They do not get to complain about where they are going. Their role in the game is to follow directly behind the leader. No deviation.

Being a follower of Jesus has a lot in common with follow the leader. Jesus said in Matthew 16:24, "If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me." Knowing Jesus, being his disciple, is not a matter of dictating the path to travel but following where it is he is going.

Discipleship is at its essence describing one who follows. Like the preschoolers lining up behind the leader going where the little boy or girls wishes to travel, so too the journey that all who believe in Jesus Christ are on is to follow him.

Jesus identified the key to following as turning from selfish ways. If you think back to the line of preschoolers, what would happen if in the middle of the line a little boy decided that he did not want to go where the leader went? He wants to go the other way. The line would fall apart. The line leader would cry out, "Teacher, he's not playing fair." If the little boy insisted on not following, not only would the game be over for him but the whole class would suffer from his actions.

Jesus says the key to following is turning from selfish ways. It is to stop insisting on your own way. To be a follower you must be willing to be led.

The game of the Christian life is to follow the leader.

Rob Hurtgen is a husband, father, minister and writer. Read more from him at

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