The Call to Follow: Hearing Jesus in a Culture Obsessed with Leadership – Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung

The Call to Follow: Hearing Jesus in a Culture Obsessed with Leadership by Joanne J Jung, Richard Langer
Published by Crossway on August 9, 2022
Genres: Non-Fiction, Christian Life, Leadership, Theology

Reexamining the Nature of Leadership and Followership in Light of Biblical Teaching

The market is flooded with books, conferences, and workshops on how to be a better leader. In most companies, leaders are noticed and applauded while followers are often viewed as weak and passive. However, Scripture tells us a different story; although leadership is valued and respected, being obedient followers of Christ is at the very heart of faith.

In The Call to Follow, Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung teach readers that "followership" is essential to both organizational and spiritual flourishing. They argue that followership requires the development of specific skills and virtues modeled and extolled throughout Scripture. They point to examples of people from the Bible and church history who focused on following in the footsteps of their Savior rather than positions of leadership among others. This helpful book seeks to dismantle the idol of leadership that's so prevalent in our culture and points us instead to the biblical concept of followership.

Biblically Centered: Contains examples of "followership" from Scripture and church history
Mission Oriented: Explains how being a follower of Jesus Christ is a missional calling
Community Focused: Written to encourage Christ followers, in both leadership and followership positions

I recently enjoyed the new Katelyn Beaty book Celebrities for Jesus: How Personas, Platforms, and Profits are Hurting the Church, and The Call to Follow immediately appealed to me as a related read. Richard Langer and Joanne J. Jung approach similar issues from a different angle, arguing that overemphasizing leadership itself contributes to problems in churches and organizations. Both celebrity and low-profile leaders leave destruction in their wake when they fail to lead well, and Langer and Jung show that a weak understanding of following is part of the problem. People respond to failures in leadership by creating even more leadership books, seminars, and workshops, but this still only focuses on the person at the top of the organizational structure.

These authors push back against the ways that people tend to idolize leadership, equating it with success and value while looking down on followers as failures who can’t think for themselves. They explore the Bible’s perspective on following, and also support their thesis through social science research. They emphasize that even though some people follow leaders blindly, churches and organizations depend on faithful, committed workers who are willing to carry out their mission without calling the shots or being the center of attention. They clearly explain why following is important, where and how it can go wrong, and what people can do to cultivate positive cultures of followership in their organizations. They also share encouraging real-world examples of healthy followers who have enhanced their organization’s vision, challenged error, and fulfilled their missions.

The Call to Follow: Hearing Jesus in a Culture Obsessed with Leadership is a must-read for leaders and followers, and even though it specifically focuses on Jesus’s teachings and Christian discipleship, some non-Christian readers may also be interested in this because of its unique take on an important topic. This book offers a much-needed paradigm shift and practical encouragement, and its points are relevant in church, nonprofit, and corporate contexts. I found the ideas in this book useful for considering my job at the library, not just my membership at church, and I appreciate how broad-ranging the book’s applications are. I highly recommend this as a thoughtful, incisive read.