Leading From Behind

Leading From Behind

Weekly Posts

1 Chronicles 17:7 “…I took you…from following the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel”

I thought David was a leader? So why would he have been following his flock. I know its good to follow some things (like me on Twitter) but really, to follow sheep? It turns out that the shepherd boy David did not aimlessly follow his sheep wherever they went, nor did he command them to follow by leading them at the front, but instead he was purposefully and humbly leading them from behind.

Isaiah 30:21 “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it”

Scripture often gives two pictures of shepherds and their flocks: some that are leading it and some that are following it. There is a time for both; when the shepherd needs to show the way and take charge he will step to the front of the flock and lead the way (John 10:4). But mostly I think, the shepherd will let his sheep roam about and explore where they want, and he will simply follow them.

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership” – Nelson Mandela

Not merely following.
But leading from behind.

God leads us from behind, in that he gives us free will and plenty of choice to make the correct decisions. He even allows us to explore new opportunities and enter new areas in life without his ‘prior permission’. All he simply does is guide us back onto the path when we have strayed to the left or to the right. Psalm 23 says “surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life“. God is your shepherd keeping watch over your steps, following where you journey, leading you from behind.

Hoops stifle.
Leading from behind empowers.

No-one likes jumping through hoops or going though the system. Having to get permission, needing to inform everyone all the time, needing to go through the correct procedure and ask every question imaginable etc. Going through the motions of needing to get permission and approval for your good ideas can be quite stifling sometimes, yet they are still important factors to keep what we do holy and pleasing to God.

Leading from behind empowers people to make decisions, to take chances, to try out new ideas, with the leader carefully observing from behind. No-one likes jumping through hoops, but if the leader positions the hoop where the individual is jumping then its a win-win. The individual still feels empowered to jump, to try new things, to explore new opportunities, whilst the leader can make sure that everything is done well and pleasing to God. In short it is the leader that must put the effort in to make sure things are done well, but not stifle the zeal of the individual.

1 Kings 20:19 “The junior officers under the provincial commanders marched out of the city with the army behind them”

In 1 Kings 20, the junior officers (aspiring leaders) were allowed to lead the army into the battle, to be at the front, to claim the victory, to receive the glory, and all the while the leaders and the rest of the army were behind them supporting them. This is a picture of what the church should look like today. It should be the young that are at the front, spearheading the Kingdom of God, pushing the church forward as the next generation, exploring new territory and claiming victory over the battles, with all the leaders leading behind them.

Jesus’ Team =  Twelve 16-20 year olds.

In the sporting world you find that the age of record breaking athletes is getting lower and lower all the time, because people know there is a huge potential in investing in young talent. Even Jesus chose a team of 16-20 year olds! We need to develop a culture whereby the ideas of the young are put to good work. Where the young are not simply expected to follow in an orderly line behind the leaders, but are empowered to explore new opportunities and defy the limits of possibility. 

Are you leading from behind? Are you letting the young lead the charge, bring about change and claim the victory?


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