Faithful followership

Neo Ban It // November 18, 2018, 11:21 pm


Photo by Al Quino on Unsplash

What is followership? Is the word even in the dictionary? In any case, is it not the diametrical cousin of “leadership”, with its attendant power and glamour that gets everyone excited?

There are books galore about leadership; themes at motivational talks and conferences are usually centred on this subject. Everyone wants to be a leader, especially a better and more successful one. Not many people would choose to follow.

Who talks about followership anyway?

The key: A detached passion

Let us return to the call of Jesus and, in particular, to consider the response of the first disciples.

Simply put, it was astonishing. Just two words – “follow me” – and they not only left everything, “their nets, their boat and their father”; they did so “immediately.” What abandonment!

How could this be? Surely these men must have been deeply pierced in their hearts by the words of Jesus. Indeed, it was said of Him that “no man ever spoke like this Man!” (John 7:46)

Such was Jesus’ aura and authority.

What about us? Can Jesus not call us out in the same way today? When He does, would you also be prepared to leave everything immediately and follow Him like the first disciples?

Quite honestly, this is highly unlikely.

Why? I believe it has everything to do with the way we hear and respond to God’s Word. We are clearly told to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22), deceiving ourselves. So it is important that we approach God’s Word in a manner that will spur us in this regard.

Here, I wish to suggest that an attitude of detached passion be adopted. I am convinced that this approach will be effective in helping us apply God’s truths, especially those that we deem hard to obey.

Complicated and confusing?

At first glance, “detached passion” seems like a contradiction of terms.

How can one be detached or disinterested and yet passionate at the same time? Or conversely, how can passion or fervour be aroused while one is detached?

Actually, the two need not be mutually exclusive. They can blend into a healthy and powerful balance.

On the one hand, one can be pursuing the promises and purposes of God with intense passion and drive. On the other, he maintains a detached nonchalance as if nothing really matters, even if these pursuits were seemingly unrealised and all his efforts wasted.

Put another way, as one goes about the affairs of God, everything is all so important, and yet all so unimportant at the same time.


It need not be.

Man can, if he chooses, rise above the temporal and mundane and not be constrained.

The reason is that God has put “eternity” (Ecclesiastes 3:11b) in our hearts to begin with. Unlike His other creations, man has been infused with a higher sense of His perspective in life. Man can, if he chooses, rise above the temporal and mundane and not be constrained.

This attitude of detached passion is perhaps best captured in this magnificently simple, yet all-encapsulating verse that the apostle Paul wrote when he declared: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) 

A favourite verse widely regarded as the Christian’s motto, this is highly popular, albeit in obituaries. One can only pray that it has indeed been so in life.

The verse begins with a personal assertion: “For to me.”

This was what was most significant and necessary in Paul’s life – his relationship with Christ.

It has to be the same in ours. No one else can make this claim on our behalf.

Two parts of life

The apostle then went on to state all there really is to life.

First, there is a clearly defined purpose: “To live is Christ.”

Notice that the purpose is not crafted in a set of goals to achieve, but God to abide in.

There was no greater gain for Paul than to be with his Saviour and God.

It is not about plans to strive for, but a Person to live with.

Christ should be our only and all-consuming focus. This is not fanaticism. Rather, it is an impassioned affirmation coupled with a total surrender to His pre-eminence over all others. Nothing and no one comes close.

Is this also who Christ is in your life? Or is there someone or something that precedes Him? Have you a higher purpose to live for?

Second, there is a certain divine prospect: “To die is gain.”

Such is the Christian’s future, an ultimate fulfilment and gain that the world can never offer. All that one can grab hold of in life, even if it were the whole world, cannot compare to what God has in store for those in Christ.

Do you have this same confidence and “gain” when everything is finally done and dusted?

 A laser focus 

Here was a man who was so convinced of the highest of purposes and the greatest of prospects in life that he lived it with such detached passion.

Faithful followership of Jesus is an exciting pilgrimage that brings everlasting prospects.

This is the link between these two underlying motivations in Paul’s life. He could not have been more passionate when everything that he lived for was for his Master and His cause. He was not just striving to achieve some goals or plans in life, however great or noble they might be. And how much more detached could he be concerning the affairs of this life when he was always looking forward to the ultimate prospect – death!

There was no greater gain for Paul than to be with his Saviour and God.

As we take this same approach in life, we can do everything for Christ’s sake with great passion, even if we fail to reap or see the tangible results that we might expect. 

What motivates us is simply the importance and urgency of the task at hand.

Nonetheless, there can be that sense of detachment in us at the same time. The reason is that we know death beckons anytime God calls. When He does, everything becomes immaterial.

Yet, our efforts are not in vain because we have a higher reward in eternity.

The hope in the promise

When we consider the principles of faithful followership with the same detached passion, the truths propounded can be lived out. While some of these may seem either difficult to accept or appear like pat answers, they are no less true and applicable.

May we keep them close to heart and find them beneficial to enable us to walk faithfully in God’s will.

Faithful followership of Jesus is an exciting pilgrimage that brings everlasting prospects.

However, the Lord is seeking only true followers, not merely those who profess to follow Him. Let us not forget that the peril of falling by the wayside is real and cannot be lightly dismissed.

By God’s grace, though, we can stay diligent and watchful.

We can make it to the end.

This excerpt from the book Faithful Followership: Make it to the end by Neo Ban It has been republished with permission from Armour Publishing. You may purchase the book here.

About the author

Neo Ban It

Neo Ban It is the senior pastor of The House of Prayer which he co-founded in 1988. He answered God’s call into full-time Christian ministry in 1979. Upon graduation from the Singapore Bible College, he served as the pastor of Salem Chapel. Ban It has a flourishing preaching and teaching ministry which has taken him to Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Brazil, South Korea, Japan, Philippines, Myanmar, Turkey, Finland and the United Kingdom.