Lead, Follow, or Move Out Of the Way

By Dorris V. Rader

The bumper sticker on the car ahead of me read, “Lead, Follow, Or Move Out Of The Way.” You have no doubt had experiences on the highway, in which you would have loved to give this advice to someone not going anywhere in particular and hindering anyone else who would like to move along. In driving along the roads and highways, I am not a horn honker, and impatient kind of a person that allows these sightseers, and joy riders to work me into a frenzy or to elevate my blood pressure. However, I think we ought to get our indignation worked up somewhat when people become simply “blockers” on the road to heaven. Those who are not especially trying to go there and, hence, cannot lead anyone else, and will not follow those who seek to go, ought to simply move out of the way. Somehow, this message needs to be conveyed. God wants leaders and followers and there is no place for simply blocking the road.

That God calls for spiritual leadership among his people, no student of the Bible will surely try to deny. For the nation of Israel, the people of God under the Old Testament, God raised up Moses to be their leader (Exod. 3,4). He has always had his own plan for leadership of his people. In the time of Samuel , the people rejected God’s plan for judges and called for a king, to be like the nations about them (1 Sam. 8:5,19). When men want a different arrangement than God’s, they always have a perfectly good “reason” for not accepting his plan. But no movement can succeed and amount to much without proper leadership. The greater the movement, the more urgent the need for leadership. “Both the will of God and the nature of people attest to the necessity of leadership (Eph. 4:11-16; Acts 20:17-29,” wrote brother Glen Barnhart in Attitudes and Reactions to Congregational Problems, 50). Whether or not we understand that the nature of people demands leadership, we ought to know the plain teaching of the Word of God calls for the appointment of elders, bishops, pastors, or shepherds in every church (Acts 14:23).

Something is wanting until such is accomplished (Tit. 1:5). It did not take any great span of years in the early church for men to meet the qualifications which the Holy Spirit laid down for men to be appointed to such a role of leadership (see Acts 14:23). When there are men who meet the Holy Spirit’s qualifications, they ought to be appointed and thus supply that which is lacking. Just anybody will not do, because specific qualifications must be met (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Tit. 1:5-9). Those who do qualify ought to accept with a willing mind, the good work of leading and of watching for souls (Heb. 13:17). “If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work” (1 Tim. 3:1). This indicates it is a proper thing for one so qualified to desire the work. It is a tremendous responsibility, and should be so recognized, but God needs and wants leadership for his people. However, God did not intend that all be leaders. If all were leaders, where were the followers? If all are overseers, who are the overseen? Everyone cannot be a “chief.” Some have to be just Indians. There is no formal list of qualification given for followers, but surely there are some traits which must be evident in a follower. Basic among those traits is humility. That is, a recognition of one’s own lack of leadership traits, and therefore the need to be a follower of those whom the Holy Spirit says should be doing the leading. Also, one may simply need to recognize that he is a novice, or one lacking in experience and spiritual maturity that comes with time and development. This is certainly no reflection upon one. For, such is true of every person at a point in his spiritual development. But, whatever the reason may be that one is not suited for the leadership role, it takes humility to recognize it and accept the leadership role of those who are qualified. Paul admonished the Thessalonians to “know them which labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you. And to esteem them very highly in love for their work’s sake. And be at peace among yourselves.” It seems significant to me, that as Paul tells these Christians how to be good followers, almost with the same stroke of his pen, he said, “be at peace among yourselves” (1 Thess.5:12-13). That indicates to me, that on this very matter there was not the peace and accord that ought to have been. Were some of them kicking at the idea of being followers? This is far too often the case. Some, while not qualified to be such leaders themselves, are neither content to follow nor to let peace prevail while qualified men lead. Too often they do not themselves provide the kind and quality of leadership God calls for, but spend much time obstructing those who could and would lead the flock of God aright. This does not mean that those designated leaders of the flock of God have all the wisdom and that they cannot benefit from the counsel and wisdom of others in the flock. They can and should benefit from feedback from others but somebody must have the leadership role. Where this is not the case, there is confusion and disarray within the flock.

Yes, the bumper sticker admonished to either lead, or follow or move out of the way. Do not simply obstruct. This is surely sound advice in spiritual matters. Now, it should go without saying, that none should blindly follow any man. The people of God who are to follow are likewise told to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good” (1 Thess. 5:21). Even those who heard and followed the apostles’ teaching were commended for receiving the word with a ready mind and searching the scriptures daily to see if the things they were taught were true (Acts 17:11). But, when leaders follow the Lord’s instructions in their leading, then others should follow. There is no justification for simply being a blocker, unless there is scriptural grounds that can be established for such. What our preferences, prejudices, or personal feelings may be, do not constitute scripture or a valid reason for blocking the road. As the bumper sticker said, either lead, follow or else move over out of the way! Remember, that in the judgment God is the one who will have the final word as to whether I have been a leader, a follower or simply a blocker, and a hinderer.

Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 10, p. 18-19
May 19, 1994