By Ellen Fillette
A disciple in leadership… is that even possible? If you think about it for a moment you realize that this phrase is really an oxymoron. To be a disciple and to be a leader are seemingly opposite tasks. To be a disciple means that we are passionately modeling our life after our leader. A disciple of Jesus commits their whole being to living a life that follows the example of the one we call Christ. To be a disciple is to be a committed follower. One the other hand leadership implies that others are following you. As a matter of fact, being a leader by standard definition, necessitates that you have followers. It is not possible to call yourself a leader if no one follows. So if we take these two definitions and try to smash them together we end up with a distorted idea of linear relationships starting with God and then trickling down: leader, follower, leader, follower, and so on. The image that comes to mind is the scene from Peter Pan where the lost boys are “following the leader.” As they journey together each lost boy –one after another in line- is both a leader and a follower doing exactly as the boy ahead of him in line did. But this can’t be a right image of disciple leadership. It runs the risk of ending up like a particularly difficult game of telephone and it looks nothing like the Kingdom of God that belongs to the least of these or the Kingdom of God where the last will be first. But like any oxymoron (Jumbo shrimp, known rumor, act naturally, freezer burn) I think these two words take on a different meaning all together when they are combined.
Being a disciple in leadership means that I am passionately modeling my life after Christ and inviting others to join me in following. A disciple does not lead from the front, but rather alongside of others. It is faithfully living into the vision of the Kingdom of God and inviting others to participate in working towards the manifestation of this vision. Disciple leadership requires that we recognize that we are only one part of the body of Christ, no more or less important than the others. Most importantly, disciple leadership offers the assurance of knowing that we never walk alone. God goes before us and our brothers and sisters walk beside me hand in hand.