Sunday in the church I serve as pastor, we're having elections of new leaders - elders and deacons - for our community. It's also the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Weekend, a three day weekend which is intended to remember what authentic paradigm-changing leadership is like, what it can do and what faithfulness to a radical vision often costs.
The lectionary scriptures for the day that I'm preaching on touch upon leadership and discipleship, a word that's increasingly just religious. A disciple is a student who follows a master teacher. In the ancient world such a student often times came to consider themselves the son of a new father (yes - it was a sexist society with primarily male metaphor). Eventually this new son, would supplant the father, and become in turn the leader. Yet the student would most often take the name of the master, passing on the tradition, leading through following. That's what these scriptures are about.
John 1 lifts up the story of disciples that switch their learning commitment from John the Baptizer as master to Jesus of Nazareth. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes to the church community of that Greek town to help them regarding leadership they need as they face specific problems in their community life. You already have all the gifts that you need to move forward, is what he says. In an age in which we're all told we can be leaders, become American Idols, the next Top Chef, the Biggest Loser or Dance with the Stars - the pressure to perform and succeed can be overwhelming. Jesus offers a different take on leadership - you lead by following and in following you may just come to lead. Sounds logical, and yet I think such a call to discipleship is actually quite counter-culture in our reality-based have-to-succeed culture.
Rob Bell, pastor of Mars Hill Church, has a thoughtful video series entitled NOOMA, intended to empower faith in Jesus in our culture. He has a great clip on leadership through following entitled "DUST". It's well worth the 15 minutes you'll spend listening and watching it.