In our highly competitive world, everyone wants to be a leader. Leaders are the winners. They are the ones rewarded with fame, prestige and the bigger paycheck. But good leaders started out as good followers. A good leader must first know how to be a good follower.

Jesus taught that leadership is actually servant hood.

They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house, he asked them, “What were you arguing about on the road?” But they kept quiet because on the way they had argued about who was the greatest.

Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.” Mark 9:33-35

I learned a lot about being a follower when I was in the Navy. Good followers have several traits in common. I’ve found there are Biblical truths to support these traits. Jesus is our King. He has the ultimate authority in our lives and this world. Therefore, we should all follow Him. We can learn to be better followers of our great King.

1.    A follower must be obedient.

Thousands of orders are given aboard ships every day. Captains need to know the sailors in their command will follow those orders, or the ship may be damaged, discovered by the enemy, or sailors won’t get their evening meal. Not following orders can have even more dire consequences. Failure to follow orders can mean people will die.

But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22

You are my friends if you do what I command. John 15:14 

2.    A follower must be loyal.

Every serviceperson takes an oath when joining the military. Loyalty is very important in life. It goes beyond attachment and affection. It’s being faithful to commitments and responsibilities. 

Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love him and keep his commandments. Deuteronomy 7:9 

And may your hearts be fully committed to the Lord our God, to live by his decrees and obey his commands, as at this time.1 Kings 8:61

No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money. Luke 16:13 

3.    A follower must be respectful.

Back in my day, we learned to respect those in positions of authority. This life skill isn’t emphasized much anymore, but it really is critical for a successful life. We need to learn to be respectful of not just those who are in positions of leadership, but those who stand beside us. Respect goes a long way. 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:4-5

Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord. Leviticus 19:32

 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

4.    A follower is a servant.

Being a servant goes beyond being obedient. Service is anticipating the needs of the one you serve and doing those tasks without being asked. When Joseph was sold to Potiphar Joseph was just a slave, but quickly rose to the role of an overseer of Potiphar’s entire house. How could this happen? He rose again to a position of power while he was in the prison. Why? Joseph did something that set him apart from others. Although Scripture doesn’t say exactly how Joseph rose to prominence in these two passages, it’s easy to infer. Joseph served.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many. Mark 10:45

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very natureGod, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8

5.    A follower is humble.

Good followers don’t draw attention to themselves. Good followers are concerned about the overall team, not just themselves. Followers seldom work alone. They work with teams. Good followers make sure the team is taken care of, the team is noticed, or the team is helped.

He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them his way. Psalms 25:9

 In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble. 1 Peter 5:5

Once you are a good follower, the military teaches you how to be an effective and respected leader. There are biblical examples of great leaders who were first great followers:

  1. Joshua followed Moses for more than 40 years before he led the Israelites into the promised land
  2. Elisha served Elijah for at least 10 years before he took up his master’s mantle and went on to perform even more miracles
  3. David first served King Saul, before he became King.
  4. Peter followed Jesus for 3 years before he and his fellow disciples turned the world upside down.

The military knows how to build leaders. If you want to be a Sargent, you must first be a Private. If you want to be a General, you start off as a 2nd Lieutenant. You start at the bottom and learn.

Learn to be a good follower first. God will place you in a leadership position, even if it is only by example.

 Walk in His Light,