This is a guest post from a good friend of mine, Stan Ward. I have known Stan for 18 years. He is one of those odd mixes of people; very deep, yet down to earth. He makes some good points about following in this post.
“Hurry up and wait.” So much of life seems like that. The Christian faith-walk often seems that way, too. There are seasons when we believe God has given us definite work and opportunities, and then there are the in-between seasons. These seasons feel directionless. Rather than moving forward with life, we feel stuck. So what is a good Christ-follower to do when he lacks specific directions from the Lord?
Barbara Kellerman’s 2008 book, Followership, describes both good and bad followers. Although her book does not necessarily deal with Christian faith, her observations are still beneficial for Christ-followers. Kellerman lists three different types of bad followers and two types of good.
Let’s consider one of her “bad” followers – the bystanders. Bystanders:
- Do nothing.
- They neither support good leadership nor resist bad leadership.
- They don’t even support bad leadership or resist good.
In Dante’s Divine Comedy, he had a special place for such do-nothings. Because they wasted their lives pursuing neither good nor evil, Dante’s poem says they were pursued by stinging hornets for all eternity (I guess that’s one way to get people motivated to do something).
What frustrates me most about do-nothing followers is how they consume needed resources: both physical and emotional. Yet no matter how much they take in, they produce nothing. Resources go in, and nothing goes out, just like the Dead Sea. Kellerman’s conclusion on the issue of do-nothings:
- “for followers to do something is nearly always better than for followers to do nothing” (p. 216).
OK, so how does all that relate to being a Christ-follower? Sometimes we sense God’s leadership directly, with almost an uncanny sense of what He wants us to do next in life. Other times, we are not so sure. Either God doesn’t seem to be speaking, or we are getting confusing messages. Although it is certainly appropriate to wait for clearer instructions, that waiting doesn’t mean Christ-followers should do nothing. There are a variety of ways that we can love God and love our neighbor during the in-between seasons. Here are just a few from the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
- Be a peacemaker (Matthew 5:9).
- Pursue righteousness (5:6, 10).
- Be an example (5:13-16).
- Control your anger (5:21-26).
- Control your lust (5:27-30).
- Be faithful to your spouse (5:30-32).
- Do what you say you will do (5:33-37).
- Be patient with those who cause you pain (5:38-42).
- Love your enemies (5:43-48).
- Give to the needy (6:1-4).
- Pray (6:5-15).
- Fast (6:16-18).
- Invest in the Eternal (6:19-24).
- Stop worrying (6:25-34).
- Fix your own life before you try to fix other people (7:1-5).
- Treat others the way you want to be treated (7:12).
I don’t know about you, but after reading this list, I’ve got plenty to do even without a special commission from God. Start loving God and loving your neighbors with these actions and you will stop being a bystander.
Author’s Bio: Stan Ward serves as Biblical Worldview Director at The Brook Hill School in Bullard, TX (www.Brookhill.org). He is also a writer, conference speaker, napkin theologian, and leadership consultant. To see some of his other projects, be sure to check out his webpage, www.stanleyjward.com.