Jesus promised his disciples that, if they followed him, he would make them fishers of men. Two things come to mind with this statement that is vital to leadership. First, Jesus invited them into his life—not a cause, but a person … himself. Second, his followers would become the “lure” to attract other fish to follow them and get hooked on Jesus. People follow people first who carry something that attracts them. If that attraction remains, then the values, beliefs and lifestyle of that person they’re attracted to will become their own in time. It’s entirely a relational thing, not institutional.
I believe when Jesus said, “Follow me…” he actually invited them to stay with him. If they did, he would introduce himself and his kingly domain (kingdom). He didn’t ask them to follow him to a church, a synagogue, a new religion, or even to a doctrinal creed. Instead, he asked them to learn his ways and carry his light and easy yoke. He was humble and lowly of heart, not arrogant like the religious and civil leaders of their time. He came to serve, not to be served.
To follow Jesus was to discover his teachings, experience his oneness with the Father, and witness a kingdom that transcended the social norms of their day. He was a counter-culture radical, beyond anything or anyone the masses had ever experienced. He wasn’t religious, he was other-worldly. To follow him was to repeatedly experience the counter-culture kingdom he brought into every situation and place. He never demanded that anyone stay with him or be like him, he merely invited them to come into that place. He invited them to taste and see that the Lord is good.
If we intimately follow Jesus as children of the Father, and brothers and sisters to him, we’ll take on his nature. We’ll be amazed, inspired, enabled, empowered and equipped through an ongoing encounter with him and the process of osmosis. He’ll never disappoint and always lead us upward toward more glory and adventure than we can ever imagine. And in the process of this journey we’ll always sense that he leaves us with the decision to freely follow, or not. To go as far as we want to, or not. To go as deep as we want to, or not. He respects our freedom to choose in the sense that he only wants us to follow him because we want to, not because he demands it. He’ll set the standard for what a sustainable following requires, but still, he leaves that up to us. He’ll say, “You can be as close to me, or as far from me as you want, but the consequence of that decision will be of your own choosing.” In other words, “The responsibility for the outcome of how close we follow him will rest on our shoulders.”
Here’s my takeaway from this and how it applies to my own calling to lead others. If I’m to become like Jesus, then I must choose to follow him in a way that exposes me daily and perpetually to his life…resulting in a mirroring in me of his likeness. To be transformed into that likeness means his nature will shine through me in such a way that it will attract others to his image in and through me. His love, his inspiration, his meekness, his servanthood, his kindness and his authoritative confidence in God’s transcendent kingdom—shining in and through me—will touch the people around me wherever I set my foot. Thus making me a lure that catches fish.
People were drawn to Jesus. In contrast to this world he was both counter-cultural and transcendent. He made sense and his perspective on life was truth wrapped in the flesh of his humanity; something everyone beheld operating through him. Thus they drew toward him and many followed. But as they followed, he never chained them to himself. They were always free to keep following—or not. When he captured their hearts, he released their wills to follow—or not. Jesus never needed anyone to follow him. His relationship to the Father was sufficient. And because he knew the Father, this attracted others to him. They followed his intimacy with the Father; and he wanted others to follow him so that he could enable them to become one with the Father, too. Whether they followed him or not, however, was up to them. He did not need them. Instead, he came to lead them to the Father.
This is a vital truth for understanding healthy, functional leadership. First, we must follow Christ and run after a sustained intimacy with him. When others see that passion in us, they’ll follow his mission working through us. If they stay with us in our assignment, then praise God. If they choose not to stay, however, then we still praise God because it doesn’t alter one bit our prime objective: i.e.—to be one with Christ in our personal “following” of him. This frees us all as leaders (or potential leaders) to keep from making any of our assignments from God about ourselves. It also removes the potential for offense when people stop following our lead. He may have a new assignment for them that no longer requires them staying with ours.
Bottom line: we run after God. That makes us then an attractive lure to other fish that Jesus wants to catch, and then release them to follow him or not. Jesus came to lead us all to the Father and acquire an intimate relationship with him. People were attracted to the Father because they saw the Father in him, and followed his lead.
Our mission always boils down to leading people to Jesus who will introduce them to his Father. Discipling others is the process of leading others into this ongoing journey of intimacy with Jesus. As long as we maintain our own intimacy with Jesus and the Father, the rest is up to God. If our prime directive is to point them to Jesus and never to ourselves or our assignment, then they’ll be transformed to become lures themselves to catch and release fish for Jesus. They, too, will become fishers of men. We must never catch or hook people to ourselves. We catch them for Jesus and then release them to follow him and the assignment he has for them.
 Osmosis—the process of gradual or unconscious assimilation of ideas, knowledge, etc.