Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Following the Leader, the Leader, the Leader...

Next fall on Fox they'll greenlight the spinoff: The Leadinging.

Please note: this post takes inspiration from the Fox television show The Following, but it spoils absolutely nothing. Except for your milk. I’m sorry to tell you, but you’ll need to pick up another gallon on your way home from work. Or you could just have Emaline get it.

Please also note: The previous paragraph contained a reference to the book Emaline’s Gift. If you have not read Emaline’s Gift, the reference will make no sense to you. The only possible solution I can think of is to go buy it, read it immediately, come back, reread that first paragraph, understand the reference and then go on with your regularly scheduled life. If you can think of another solution, I’m sure it’s not nearly as good.

You might even say he's "following" her lead!
Oh and note this too: Actually, I’ve got nothing else to say. I was just wondering how many of these addendums I could get away with.

So Kevin Bacon decided to take a page from his wife’s book and do a TV show (Kyra Sedgwick, of course, played Brenda Leigh Johnson for seven seasons of The Closer on TNT). I’m glad he did, because his performance, in my opinion, is one of the best things about The Following, and I enjoy the show a great deal. I’ll admit that the series is pretty divisive. It can be pretty grisly, for one thing, and it certainly requires a certain suspension of belief (as many shows do) so it’s really up to the viewer whether they can still go with it and have a good time or not. The wife and I enjoy it, but it’s certainly not everyone’s cup of tea.

The cartoon that changed Joe Carroll's life.
That’s fine, of course, because we have a greater purpose to discuss anyway. The central premise of the show centers around a serial killer who was captured years ago (by Bacon’s character, Ryan Hardy). The killer, Joe Carroll, is arrogant, pretentious and obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe. I know what you’re thinking. If he’s so full of himself, why did he choose to be obsessed with such a writer whose creepiness has become such a cliché? Wouldn’t someone a bit more obscure fit the character a bit better? I mean, The Raven was covered by Tiny Toons! If that doesn’t make it lose a bit of street cred, what does? I think I’ve gotten a bit off track.

The idea is that Carroll is such a charismatic individual that he has amassed a group of loyal followers. While he is locked up in prison, grinning his smug little grin, his followers are out killing and causing all sorts of bloody mischief. Carroll is pulling the strings, of course, but his deluded disciples are so passionate about their leader that they are risking imprisonment or even death by carrying out his wishes. The idea must have been somewhat inspired by the Manson Family and others like them. Their association certainly reaches to some religious fervor, to the point where Carroll’s followers are dubbed “a cult.”
Whereas I’m not a huge fan of all the murder and kidnapping and the like, I’ve got to admire the loyalty and the dedication of these followers. They have essentially been willing to give up or change everything in their lives to do what Carroll tells them to do. Can you even imagine that sort of devotion? What would it take? I’m reminded of a quote by researcher extraordinaire George Barna who said in his book Growing True Disciples, “The twenty-first-century church has many ‘followers’ of Christ in the sense that I follow the Yankees: We dabble in Christianity.”

Now think about it. Think about the devotion that we see in obsessive cultists like those on The Following or the type that drank the Kool-aid that Jim Jones served or even the suicide bombers who give it all for the sake of jihad. If our devotion to Christ is anything less, is it because He expects less from us—or because we’re not giving all we should? Are we less committed to the Truth of Christ than some people are to the lies that they follow? Do we follow Jesus Christ, giving all up in His pursuit, or do we “follow” Him the way we follow a sports team, tuning in to give them half our attention once a week, getting caught up in victories and defeats on some shallow, emotional level, but without any of it really affecting our lives?

And, yes, I do realize that there are people who follow sports teams obsessively. Trust me, you don’t want to mention baseball to my sisters any time within the few days following the Yankees’ annual ousting from the playoffs. Would that they would follow Christ even to that degree.

What does Jesus really expect from us? Based on various passages of Scripture, we can come to the conclusion that followers of Jesus Christ: must deny themselves, pick up their cross daily and follow Him (Luke 9:23); love Christ so much that it looks like they hate their family and their own life by comparison (Luke 14:26); renounce all that they own (Luke 14:33)—and I could go on, but I think we’ve already got a clear picture, haven’t we? Christ doesn’t call for dabblers. He calls for full-on fanatics, zealots who will put Him and His mission above everything and everyone. To follow Christ is to no longer live for yourself. It’s to live for Him.

But it’s very easy to get distracted, isn’t it? In The Following, we are introduced early on in the series to a core group of three of his followers who literally let their entire lives be dictated by the needs of their leader. Two straight men posed as lovers because gay neighbors would be the least threatening to a woman who had been assaulted in the past. A young woman becomes a qualified nanny and works for years in that environment until it is time to act. Talk about devotion. Their lives are not their own, by choice.
Anyway, the guy with the gun probably has
more verses memorized than you do.
And the Second Amendment.

So, yes, I know that you and I are willing to die for our faith, if the situation were to ever arise. Perhaps we might doubt that a bit, but the truth is that we may never find out for sure. Most Christians in the United States, at least in modern times, never have to make that decision. Quite frankly, it’s easy to make the commitment to be true to Christ even if it meant your life when it’s something that has a pretty slim chance of ever happening.

And you don't even NEED kidneys to
tell people about Jesus! That's the crazy part!
Let’s talk, then, not about slim possibilities but about reality. You may or may not be presented with the opportunity to give your life for your faith someday, but you very much have the opportunity to live for it—for Him—right now. Part of that is just in putting Him first in our day-to-day lives. The reality is that we pass people with needs—physical, emotional, whatever—on a daily basis and I firmly believe that every need is an opportunity to help someone in the name of Jesus. Why would you ever drive by someone broken down by the side of the road, when by stopping and giving them a ride to the gas station or putting some money in their tank could present an opportunity to share the Gospel with them? Sometimes the Holy Spirit opens that door and sometimes He doesn’t, but there is always the opportunity to help someone out and, when they thank you, simply telling them that you’re a follower of Jesus Christ and you’re helping out because it’s one way that you can show His love to others. Even that plants a seed, and sometimes it can lead to a lot more. And what if the person by the side of the road is some nefarious criminal, looking to steal your car and sell your kidneys? Well, we just talked about the fact that we put Christ before our own lives, didn’t we? He will protect us or He won’t; blessed be the name of the Lord.

That’s just one example, of course; the truth is that there are countless little ways to serve others in the name of Christ. There tends to be a cost. Sometimes the cost is financial and serving others will almost always cost time. Now, if the money is all God’s and if every moment you are alive is a gift from Him, is being selfish with our time and money ever the right move?

Pictured: actual fictional inner city
Baltimore classroom.
I feel like we need to really evaluate and find out if we are following Jesus to the best of our ability where we’re at, wherever we’re at. But here’s another question that the serial killer’s followers on the TV show asked that we may not: Are you in a place where you can have the maximum impact for the Kingdom of God? Geographically? Vocationally?

Could you have greater impact as a follower of Jesus Christ as a youth pastor in rural Indiana or as a high school teacher in inner city Baltimore? Could you reach more lost souls with the Gospel working as a receptionist at a Pennsylvania paper company or as a bartender at a hotel by the airport? Do you suppose that you do more good at your well-paying job in your comfortable home sending $30 to WorldVision each month, or could God use you better halfway across the world, living and working in the communities ravaged by AIDS and desperate for clean water? 

It’s just a thought, and I don’t believe there is one blanket answer for everybody, but I simply want to know whether or not you’ve asked the question. Have you ever honestly prayed, Father, my life is yours. I will move my family anywhere you say. I will get a job wherever you open doors. I want my life to have maximum impact for You so please put me wherever I can best serve you.

We are here to reach others for Jesus Christ. We are here to be salt and light. Everything else is just sound and fury, signifying nothing.

So back to those kooky serial killerettes who were willing to alter their entire lives for their leader. What could ever drive someone to those extremes? Love, devotion and belief. I don’t have to ask how much they love their leader. I don’t have to ask if they’re devoted. It would be silly to ask whether they truly believe in what he’s selling, because they have proven where they stand.

It's possible I got the wrong "judgment day."
This isn’t about proving something, not to me, not to God, not to anyone. This is about impact. This is about using everything we have to glorify the One we follow. When you’re standing in front of God someday, giving an account for how you used your gifts, talents and resources for His purposes, are you going to regret how you spent today? Tomorrow? This year? In that instant, when everything is so clear and billions have been sentenced to hell and it’s too late to make a difference, are you going to wish you had done things differently?

My advice: don’t wait. Take stock. Pray. If you need to make a change, make it. When this life is over, you won’t regret it.


  1. Oh, that crazy, convoluted brain of yours. Good post, but a little rapid-fire on the subject changes. And I know what happens when you send Emaline for milk! I'd tell the folks, but my price would be higher than just buying the book, I promise.

    1. Rapid-fire subject changes...that's what it's like in my head. I like to share with others.

  2. Good thoughts. Sadly, many do not understand true commitment. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Thanks for swinging by, Sheila. I've said this before, but I'm convinced that one of the greatest accomplishments of Satan in our world is the proliferation of amoral distractions. There are just so many pulls on our attention, things that "there's nothing wrong with," that even the best intentions get smashed upon the rocks of the status quo. We have a massive list of luxuries that we consider non-negotiable necessities as we follow Christ. Can we honestly stand with Paul and say that we will be content if we only have food and clothing?

  3. This is in fact what it's like in his head, and in his conversations. trust me. :)
    Wonderful post honey. I enjoyed it.