Don’t Follow, Join.

“To follow” – go or come after (a person or thing proceeding ahead); to accept as a guide or leader; accept the authority of or give allegiance to; to conform to, comply with, or act in accordance with; obey.

“To Join” – to connect, or bring or put together; to come into union with; to bring together in a particular relation or for a specific purpose; unite; to participate with (someone) in some act or activity.

I recently had the privilege to hear Hall of Fame Quarterback Jim Kelly speak at the Maryland Fellowship of Christian Athletes Annual Celebration Dinner.

He said something I found extremely profound and its message reappeared in my life several times in the course of a week. He was talking about his faith and he urged the crowd to make the distinction between asking people not “to follow, but to join.”

His point of frustration was from being asked ‘to follow’ and he was already a follower of Christ; but when the message changed to ‘join’ and deepen his love and strengthen his connection to Jesus, it then made sense.

You should follow instructions, rules, directions or something like a hiking trail; you should join an organization, a team, a committee or something like a cause. People are most apt to stick with something they joined as opposed they happen to be just be following, there is a greater sense of engagement and connection. Consider weight loss programs as opposed to just following a diet – the success of programs is based on the connection with other people.

I find the notion of ‘following’ someone on social media interesting, to say the least. To me, ‘following’ is a spectator sport and although it makes sense in my mind with sports teams; why would someone want to be an onlooker to someone else’s life?

Life isn’t meant to sit idly by to watch. The end game in life is that you are not here to be entertained.

You are a participant.

You are here to give and serve.

You are not the audience; you are the players, the team.

If you sit in the bleachers, you will give little and get little. “Life is not a spectator sport. If you’re going to spend your whole life in the grandstand just watching what goes on, in my opinion you’re wasting your life.” – Jackie Robinson

The expression ‘Followers of Christ’ is well used and the original term was ‘Followers of the Way’. While Jesus was on earth, His twelve followers were called disciples because they were followers of his way and teachings and throughout the Gospels we see over and over again when Jesus calls out to people with two simple words, “Follow me!”

However after His resurrection and ascension, they began to be referred to the original disciples as the twelve apostles.

Taking people’s efforts and convictions beyond ‘following’ was Paul’s in his letter to the Romans (Romans 15:30). He writes – “Now I urge you, brothers, by our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and by the love that the Spirit produces, to join me in my struggle, earnestly praying to God for me.” Paul saw the need to ask for the connection at the higher level.

I have found that I am not a good follower but that I need to be a joiner. Don’t get me wrong, I follow the rules. But when it comes to being part of a group, organization or even a company; I need to do more than follow what someone else is telling me to do – I have at least two career changes that can be attributed to my not being content under those conditions.

I now see the distinction and feel that being a disciple of Jesus Christ isn’t enough for me. I believe the Holy Spirit’s efforts are rooted in joining with Christ. Joining is ‘all in’; following doesn’t carry that full price. I need to be all in.

About the Author

Bob Mahr answered a calling to combine his experiences as a business leader, a volunteer football coach and a father with his faith to champion and enrich today’s youth.  Bob is a Director of a multi-million dollar division for a National Supply Chain partner; a Volunteer High School Football; an active member of the local Fellowship of Christian Athletes as a Board Member, Campus Huddle Coach and Character Coach; as well as a father of three daughters all becoming citizens in today’s society.  Bob takes his purpose from Luke 12:48 – to whom much has been given, much is expected.