Meanderings of a Minister


Who Are You Following?
May 12, 2016, 8:57 am
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follow-the-leader

In the book of Judges, we find an interesting story.  The Israelites had been sinning against God, so God allowed Jabin, the king of Canaan, to harass them for twenty years.  During this time, Barak was the commander of the Israelite armed forces.  During this twenty years, Barak did nothing to fight against the foreign king so God raised up Deborah as a judge to deliver Israel.  Deborah told Barak to gather his forces together and to go to Mount Tabor and attack Jabin’s forces.  In Judges 4:8, we get Barak’s response, “If you [Deborah] will go with me, then I will go; but if you [Deborah] will not go with me, then I will not go.”

In other words, Barak was saying that he would not do his job unless Deborah went with him.  Now, there are a variety of reasons for this, but notice how different and how similar Barak’s statement was to that of Moses earlier in the Israelites’ history.  In Exodus 33:15, Moses said to God, “If Your Presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here.”  Did you catch that?  Moses was saying that he would not lead if God did not go with him.  Barak was saying he would not lead if Deborah did not go with him.  Before you jump to wrong conclusions, allow me to make this observation.  The main difference was that Moses appealed to following God while Barak appealed to following a person.

That brings us to the title of this article.  Who are you following?  Many times people in churches follow a pastor.  When the pastor leaves, the people leave.  In Bible Study groups, people follow the Small Group leader.  When the leader leaves, the people leave.  For people who are following God, the leader, while important, is not the ultimate reason for attending, serving, and working in the church.  So, when the leader leaves, the people following God continue following God and doing what they have been called to do.

Now, you might object, “What about Paul?  He told the people to imitate him as he imitated Christ.  (1 Corinthians 11:1)  Doesn’t that mean that Paul wanted them to follow him?”  Actually, the key to what Paul is saying is when he said AS HE IMITATED CHRIST.  What Paul wanted of the Corinthians more than anything was that they would follow Christ.  He told them earlier in the book not to divide up in church over what person you follow, but to follow Christ. (1 Corinthians 3:4-5)  He even went so far as to tell the Galatians that if he were to begin preaching another gospel, other than salvation by grace and through faith, they should remove him from leadership and treated him as an unbeliever. (Galatians 1:8-9)

So, who are you following?  Why do you go to church?  By the way, can I say that the people in the pews (or chairs) are not the only ones who easily succumb to this pressure of following people instead of following God.  Pastors and leaders can fall into this trap as well.  First, everyone likes to be liked, so there is a pressure to only do what will make the people of your church like you.  But what do you do when that Cult of Personality hijacks following God?  As leaders, we had better follow God, but this is not always easy.  Sometimes there are situations in which there is no clear, one-biblical-way, to do something.  We know what we need to do, but how to do it becomes a different situation.  Who do we follow then?  And how do we know we are following God and not just pridefully resisting someone we want to not have to follow?  How do we know if we are bowing to financial pressure, popularity pressure, or even job security when the way is not right before us?  It comes down to our relationship with God and whether or not He has given us enough direction to know we must die for our decision.  If we are following Him, we will persevere.  If we are going our own way, we will walk away.  If we are following someone else, we will follow them.

So, church leaders, church members, regular attenders, and even guests of churches would do well to ask the question, “Who are you following?”  Having asked that question, we need to be able to respond, “Choose this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.”

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