Discipleship: A Leader Follows
Written by Carolyn Fado
Grace-on-the-Hill corps member
I am participating in the Grace-on-the-Hill program and my worksite is Anna Julia Cooper Episcopal School (AJCES) in the East End of Richmond. It is in a low-income and underprivileged area, in the midst of housing projects. A few shootings happen in the area every year. The public schools here are unaccredited. At AJCES, every student who attends receives a full scholarship. The school gives the students the opportunity to get a better education and therefore succeed. I was particularly attracted to this position because I thought it would be a good opportunity to help others. After all, isn’t that what being a good Christian disciple, or even just a good person, is all about?
Let’s take a minute to talk about what being a disciple means. To someone like me, the word seems archaic. Being a disciple means following the teaching of Christ. Jesus teaches us to treat our neighbors as we want to be treated ourselves. We can extend neighbors to mean all humans. Briefly, I believe that following Jesus means recognizing that everyone has God’s spirit.
When I think about discipleship, there is also a voice in the back of my head that tells me I need to be a leader and not a follower. Leadership is a good quality to put on a resume. Following just doesn’t seem impressive. Nevertheless, it seems easy for the wealthy to follow the teachings of Jesus while leading others. How easy it can be for someone like me, from an affluent background, to feel like I am truly making a difference in the lives of others by leading those who don’t have the same fortune as I!
We mustn’t forget that we can find leaders from places we don’t expect. As Christians, we follow Christ who didn’t come from an affluent background. Jesus was of Nazareth, which was not somewhere “important”. Mary was a teenage mother, who gave birth in a manger. If Jesus (the historical figure) were in front of us today, would we as a society notice and follow him?
Before starting this program, I believed that I would be able to lead others at AJCES. What I didn’t think about was how invaluable following can be and how much the people I would meet would help me. I am learning how to be an effective teacher and school administrator. I am not only learning from my colleagues and supervisors, but also from my students and their parents.
To me, being a disciple of Jesus means having the courage to not only lead, but also to follow. To not only help and lead others, but to recognize that those whom you believe you are helping may be the ones who will save you. I may think that I am leading others, but they might teach me more than I teach them. It is when we recognize the value of following others that we can become true leaders and disciples.