Playing Follow the Leader

Then the disciples came to him and asked, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?”
He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.”

  • Matthew 15:12-14

“All of us played follow-the-leader as kids. But even then, when the guide in front was too daring or foolish, we would step aside. There were definite limits on how far we would follow.
“Sadly, this is not always true in the spiritual realm, where leaders unworthy of the name sometimes command blind devotion. (Remember Jonestown and Waco and those fallen televangelists?)
“No one ever defined that follow-no-matter-what syndrome better than our Lord in Matthew 15:14; ‘Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind. And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.’
“Remember now, Jesus warned us against blind guides, not all guides. God still uses strategic, trustworthy, dedicated leaders. Always has, always will. These visionary guides have 20-20 vision as they continue walking with God. They deserve our respect.
“But how can we tell when ‘blindness’ starts to set in? What are the symptoms to look for in strong, natural leaders that tell us trouble is brewing? When should we stop following lest we, too, become blind?
“After thinking about this for quite awhile, I am ready to suggest six blind spots we dare not overlook.
Authoritarianism. Take care when a leader begins repressing your freedom. When he or she becomes inflexible, dictatorial, tyrannical, oppressive … stop following. If there is the lack of a servant’s heart, of a teachable spirit, pride is in control. Be especially wary of one who seems to have all the answers.
Exclusiveness. Watch out for the ‘we-alone-are-right’ and the ‘us-four-and-no-more’ attitudes. When what is being promoted starts making you clannish, closed and cliquish, beware! This reveals itself in an encouragement to break commitments with your mate, family members, and long-standing friends. Paranoia often accompanies such exclusiveness.
Greed. Moneygrubbing is another tell-tale sign. Especially if funds wind up in the leaders pocket and become ‘nobody’s business.’ Remember 1 Peter 5:2. Dependable shepherds are not motivated by ‘sordid gain.’
Sensuality. Moral purity is a must if the leader claims God’s hand is on his life. Follow no guru, no matter how visionary or charismatic, who promotes and practices sexual looseness, who is too familiar with the opposite sex, who laughs at lust and flirts with infidelity. A holy life is never optional.
Unaccountability. Leaders who refuse to be accountable to anyone forfeit the right to be trusted and followed. Beware of the secretive, irresponsible, untouchable ‘I am God’s anointed’ mentality. No matter how eloquent or how competent, every leader needs counsel and occasional confrontation.
Rationalization. When wrong is justified with a defensive spirit, when inappropriate actions are quickly glossed over, when scriptural truth is twisted to fit a sinful lifestyle, when gray-black facts are whitewashed, stop your support. Remember, ‘accommodation theology’ is a danger signal. Look for these things in the ones you follow; a servant’s heart, a vulnerable spirit, a sensitive conscience, and a quick willingness to admit wrong.
“The hypnotic, demanding spell of a blind prima donna is exactly as Christ described it: the pits.
“Take His advice; ‘Let them alone!’”

  • Charles R. Swindoll, The Finishing Touch (Devotion for Thursday, Week 28)

I do not have much to add, other than the strange photo above, and the story behind it.

The morning that I took this photo on my way home from dropping my wife off at dialysis, my wife and I saw an unusual scene.  In the photo, through the scrub brushes in the foreground, you can see, faintly, two lines of animals climbing the hill.  One starting in the middle of the photo and going up and to the left.  The other, a shorter line, further to the left.

But what we saw on our way to dialysis that morning was from the top of the hill and unobscured by the brush, just with no camera ready and on icy ground in a corner of the road where stopping was not an option.  What we saw at first was a pristine snowscape with one set of hoofprints.  There was a cow grazing on the huge bale of hay at the bottom of the hill with a couple of other bales nearby.  But then, following the line of hoofprints that the cow had made, halfway up the hill was a single sheep coming down.

The sheep was thinking that if the cow made it, why not him (assuming a ram, but not necessarily)?  The sheep had not varied from the track of the cow, but since the sheep was lower to the ground and his geeky legs were closer together (the video below explains the geeky legs), he had more snow to plough with his fur.  He had gotten halfway down, and he stopped to decide whether this game of follow the leader was worth it.

As humans seeing this, my wife and I could tell that either the sheep made it down the hill or the sheep starved.

But the odd thing was that a few paces behind the first sheep was a second, then a third, and then the herd, one behind the other in single file.  No one daring to start a second path.  Then after a straight line of sheep, never varying from the initial cow’s path, there were calves in the line as well.  The fate of all their lives depended on the lead sheep, and he was stuck in a snow drift and paralyzed with indecision.

On the return trip, there were two lines of sheep and cows going up the hill.  The lead sheep had made it, and all those who followed the leader made it also.  And there were two trails that led up the hill after they had eaten the hay.  Other than the two trails, and the area around the 2-3 bales of hay, the snow had been untouched.  As much as possible, they stepped in the same hoofprint as the animal before them.

In Ken Davis’ super comedy routine (and amazing sermon) Super Sheep, he makes an hour-long (56:37) point that we are indeed sheep in need of a shepherd.  But he spends most of that hour saying, “Lord, I don’t wanna be a stupid, geeky, follow-anything, chicken, can’t-run-right, die-easily SHEEP!”

And as sheep follow the leader, so do we follow leaders.  Take heed to Rev. Swindoll’s points in examining your spiritual leaders, but always remember that we are indeed sheep.

If you cannot spend the next hour watching this sermon / comedy routine, come back when you have time.  It is worth it.  It is one of the most profound ‘sermons’ that I have ever laughed my way through, but also learned so much.  It touched my heart to view it multiple times.

The Bible teaches us there is One who is worthy to be followed, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

And Spoiler Alert if you have not seen the video:

I may be a sheep, but I am a Super Sheep.  When Satan attacks, all I have to do is point to Jesus and say, “I’m with Him.”  But it takes a day by day, minute by minute, total commitment to Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

3 Comments

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  1. Good thoughts Mark. It’s really hard to take a picture from a moving vehicle. Kens video is worth the watch and then some.
    I grew up on a farm with sheep and cattle…that’s exactly how they act.

    Liked by 1 person

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