Moving from Fans to Followers

A game of football is played by 2 teams – 22 men, giving all they’ve got, watched by thousands of spectators, many of whom are in great need of exercise themselves! Sometimes the spectators cheer. Sometimes they criticize.  But they remain spectators, observing the efforts of those on the pitch. This happens every Saturday afternoon across our nation.

Sadly this same scenario is also happening across our nation every Sunday morning.

Whole congregations sit in pews or chairs and watch “the game”, often experiencing great teaching and worship. Sometimes these spectators cheer. Sometimes they criticize. But they remain spectators.

Many churches have a minister and staff who are over-worked trying to provide for the needs of their congregation. Staff often have good motives, aiming to keep the congregation well fed and cared for, but the result is that the body remains cosy and comfortable.

But we can see from the gospel accounts that it wasn’t comfortable or cosy following Jesus.

There was risk, adventure, exhilaration, encouragement and camaraderie amongst Jesus and his disciples.

So how do we re-create the Jesus-way in the churches of today?

Close examination of Jesus’ leadership style shows him creating an environment where 2 key principles are at work: invitation (support & encouragement) and challenge (stimulus, input, truth). His followers experienced both of these in great and equal measure. If you look through the New Testament, you will see this at work in all the relationships Jesus had.

One tool we use to help leaders move towards this Jesus-way of leading is the

“Invitation and Challenge” matrix:

Most church congregations experience leadership akin to the cosy quadrant (low challenge, high support) where they are not challenged to move, give, change, journey or serve – they are not challenged to exercise.

A discipleship based culture is one which is moving towards, and into, the ’empowered’ quadrant. When operating in this quadrant the church is supported, resourced and loved. And they are also challenged and stretched. As with Jesus’ leadership style, invitation and challenge are employed in equal measure.

Often, a church staff team will already be experiencing high challenge! For them, moving into the empowered quadrant involves an increase in the level of support. This might include:

  • Saying thank you,
  • Protecting their rhythm
  • Resourcing them more effectively to do their job
  • Implementing leaders training
  • Asking them what they need to do their job better
  • Praying for them.

The list goes on.

The harder task is to move a congregation from being cosy to empowered: To move them means to provide stimulus and challenge. This will not be a quick or pain-free journey.

It will get worse before it gets better.


Well, who wants to get out of bed early and go running? Who wants to go to the gym? Who wants to keep to a strict diet?

Not many people! But these practises are good for us. Getting fit is a good thing.

Evidence of increasing levels of challenge may look like some of the following:

  • Leaving holes in certain places rather than filling them
  • Raising the bar of expectation
  • Delegating responsibility
  • Calling people to commitment

Increasing the level of challenge within a congregation may appear in a variety of ways. How it looks is not the key issue, but a call to a lifestyle of participation and spiritual exercise is vital in getting people off the side lines and creating a discipleship culture.

Jesus is not looking for fans – he wants followers.

We will look at this matrix again and in particular at the experience of moving from a cosy congregation to an empowered one. For now though, here are some questions to think about:

Where are you as a leader on the matrix?

Where are your staff?

Where is your congregation?

Where do you need to bring higher levels of invitation or challenge?


Categories: Uncategorized

6 replies »

    • You’re right Tim, this may not always be the case! Nonetheless worship and teaching is often the primary recipient of our energy and capacity, regardless of how well it is received.

      Continuing the football analogy, many clubs still retain a strong fan base even when they are not playing well!

  1. I read this in the context of the up-in-out model of discipleship and say amen. My concern is that for many churches the ‘challenge’ given is to be involved in more church ministries rather than living out our call to engage with the world we live in. That’s my view from the pew 🙂

    • Thanks Craig, a great reflection – We fully agree that this fits with the triangle.

      You are right that if this is read with a ‘central church/fill rotas’ mindset then yes, there is a danger of the challenge being brought to ‘get more involved’. The challenge has to be for people to live out their life as missional disciples in the neighbourhoods & networks that God has placed them – this will be the theme of future blog posts.

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