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Following the Leader

April 21, 2013

In my spare time, when I’m not rescuing lost sailors or fighting giant robots, I substitute teach.  It’s an adventure to say the least.  Everyday is different, whether the challenge be personal confusion, boredom, putting down riots, getting children to shut up for just a few seconds, or retaining my sanity despite childhood ominous odors mingling in my nostrils.  I teach any grade, sometimes regretfully—like last week when I taught Kindergarten accidentally.

If you’re a woman reading this (pardon the blanket statement, but you know it’s true) something deep down inside of you on the primal level is going oh joy!! (even if you don’t like kids).  Beyond not being able to have a conversation with one of them outside of Angry Birds or what they accidentally got stuck up their nose yesterday (regretfully, many high schoolers I’ve spoken to can’t hold a conversation of such depth), there’s a core reason why I don’t like teaching Kindergarten.

Every Kindergarten teacher trains their children like wild animals.  It really is a circus teaching Kindergarten.  You might have 15-30 feral children in you care from any time, but unlike the circus they don’t equip you with such disciplinary tools as a whip.  Just like training your dog, every Kindergarten teacher uses unique sounds, hand signals and systems to pacify the beasts long enough to impart something of civilization to them.

Anytime I’ve taught Kindergarten (and it isn’t very often), I struggle to keep the creatures sitting on their carpet.  I’ve tried bribing them with recess, threatening them with magical powers, conning them with mind tricks, reasoning with them, begging them on my knees (which still makes me taller than them and is therefore ineffective), dancing like a fool (by the way, dancing like a fool is in the curriculum)—nothing seems to still the ants in their pants.  Since Kindergarten teachers conspire against the children collaborate with each other to keep an eye on the children, there’s inevitably going to be another teacher who walks into the room halfway through the day.  She sees the chaos you’re wallowing in, claps three times and all the kids instinctively sit down perfectly still on the carpet.

What the heck?

Then my eyes were opened.  Every Kindergarten class has its own language, much like the tapping code POW’s use to communicate inside prison cells, that only they use.  Unless you crack the code you’ll never get anything done.  ***If you’re a Kindergarten teacher, have pity on your sub and put your secret mind control code in the lesson plans.

So to make a long story longer, I was driving home after school when Holy Spirit began talking to me about it.

When I was in college, which was a military college, my favorite job was a squad sergeant (basically a drill sergeant).  In the beginning of the year, you get a handful of dweebs fresh off the street.  For a week you work with them, forcing them through the mold of a military culture, until they recognize your commands and obey them immediately.  We used all kinds of special words that a newcomer would never think to use if they subbed your squad.  For example, beat your faces, meant get on all fours and get ready to do push ups.  Drive by, mean’s go around me when I’m in your way.  Of course, out of context most of those are hard to understand, but when you’re immersed in the culture it all makes sense.

When someone comes in who does things in a different way, it breeds confusion.  Why?  Because your followers, be they kindergarteners or Cadets (uncannily similar to kindergarteners), will be conditioned to your leadership style.  They will take your commands, your habits, your timing, your expectations and absolutely own them to the degree that you push them.

What God started to show me with the kindergarteners and Cadets is that it’s relatively easy to get people to follow my lead.  Given the right circumstances, I can get people to follow me pretty easily.  Making followers of someone else is much harder.  When God tells us to make disciples, he’s not telling us to get people to follow us.  He wants disciples who follow Jesus.

Discipleship in that sense is greatly lost in the western church.  We’re good at going to leaders and asking for their advice, for going to conferences, small groups, church services, etc.  I think many Atheists who have criticized Christians for being mindless fools have tapped into something.  For many of us, a relationship with Jesus isn’t what we have, we have scheduled meetings with Christians who tell us how to think.

I am hungry to learn how to disciple people well.

I hate codependence.  I hate control (especially when I see it in myself).  I don’t want to make people who come to me for answers, I want to teach people how to know Jesus for themselves.  It’s easy to set up ‘clap 3 times’ type of ministries, it’s much harder to train people to follow Jesus, who train people to follow Jesus.  If the people I’ve invested in don’t learn to follow Jesus for themselves, if I’m constantly the advisor and the teacher, then I’m not doing my job.  Often it’s fear that keeps us from releasing people.  Control is mistaken for wisdom.  He’s not ready to make those decisions yet, because he’s too immature in his faith… maybe down the road.  No, maybe he’s not, but he’ll never be ready if you play the role of Holy Spirit in his life.

When we steer people away from failure, it often means we don’t trust them to hear Holy Spirit. And if they’re not able to hear Holy Spirit, there’s probably a problem in the way we’re discipling them.  Chances are, much like the kindergarteners, we’re training them to respond to us and not to Holy Spirit.

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