Rex Gatto, president of Gatto Associates, LLC, defines followership as the willingness to cooperate in accomplishing defined goals while demonstrating a high degree of interactive teamwork. According to Gatto: “Effective followers are active participants [partners] in creating the leadership process. Followers permit leaders to establish and keep themselves in control of a situation that is productive, efficient, and people-oriented.”1
I’m a Christian, and Jesus is my leader. When He began His ministry, He called Peter, Andrew, and the sons of Zebedee to follow Him. Later, Jesus grouped His followers into twos—first the 12 disciples and later the 70—and sent them out to be His witnesses and to share His teachings. Like them, we, too, have been chosen and called to follow Christ.
At age 13, I accepted the call to become a follower of God. I was baptized and joined the Better Living Seventh-day Adventist Church plant in Monrovia, Liberia—a church that went on to “birth” more than 12 other church plants. At age 16, I was awarded an intercultural academic scholarship to travel to the United States to complete my final year of high school. My local church pastor gave me, as a parting gift, a book titled Who Am I? A Christian Guide to Meaning and Identity, by Skip MacCarty. My pastor wanted to ensure that I didn’t lose my identity as a child of God in a “den of wolves.”
The words of the book molded my mind and helped me to understand who I am: a person created in the image of the Lord; and whose I am: a child of God. It brought me great joy, knowing that “the meaning of my life is in the potential I have through my individuality, to image uniquely the truth about God, and to share uniquely in His mission of peace. Thus, in my whole being, and throughout my entire life, in the development of my character and my labors of love for others, I can be glorifying Him. This is the purpose of my existence.”2
Christ expects every believer to allow the Holy Spirit to work through them to produce disciples. Jesus said, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Christ never said, “Occupy the pews”; rather, He said to tell others of Him, that He loves them, that He died for them, and that He’s coming soon.
A few years after graduate school, I began working for Global Mission in what was then the Africa-
Indian Ocean Division. I was responsible for identifying churches that needed help funding their church building projects. These responsibilities intensified my desire for mission and made me yearn to do more for my country of origin, Liberia.
One Sabbath afternoon, after singing the words to the hymn “Hark! the Voice of Jesus Calling,”3 a few friends, my husband, my mother, and I met to discuss how we could “be like faithful Aaron, holding up the prophet’s hands” in the Liberia Mission of Seventh-day Adventists. We discussed the formation of a nonprofit organization, the North America Liberia Adventist Association (NALAA),4 that my husband, John, and I have now been leading for almost 14 years. NALAA serves as an extended and supportive arm of Seventh-day Adventist churches in Liberia.
As followers of Christ, we’re reminded that “God created man for His glory and called him by His own name. His name is the expression of His holy character and saving mission. And those who are called by God’s name are to reflect His character and share in His mission. In doing this, they glorify Him, which is the purpose of human existence.”5 We must be mission-driven, willing to work toward the accomplishment of God’s mission wherever we are. We have excellent opportunities to be a blessing to others.
By the power of the Holy Spirit, the Lord led our organization to conduct an evangelistic series in Liberia that resulted in 75 people giving their lives to Christ. We established a church in rural Liberia in the Borkeza district of Lofa County.
NALAA built a church that seats about 150 members, renovated several churches, provided pews for needy congregations, and established a scholarship program. As an organization, we’ve sponsored more than 60 students in Liberia.
Followers must consider themselves as those who serve rather than waiting to be served.
For several years now, we’ve had opportunities to serve local churches within driving distance of our home. The Lord led John and me to support the members of the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church and establish a church plant in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. For three years we commuted nearly every Sabbath from Baltimore, Maryland, leaving at 6:30 a.m. in order to arrive in time for Sabbath School. We had a 3-year-old at the time, and I was pregnant with my last child. Today, the Abundant Life Seventh-day Adventist Church has been reorganized into the Pilgrims Seventh-day Adventist Church of the Pennsylvania Conference.
In May 2019, my husband and I were impressed to leave our local church to support members who wanted to plant churches through outreach. Today, we’re excited to work in the Randallstown area of Baltimore as members of the Salt Adventist Group. Our goal is to open a Hope Life Center where people can experience the love of Jesus.
Followership comes with trials. Tensions among members can result in distractions that hinder the work. Personal attacks and criticisms can cause frustration and discouragement. But one must be committed to doing the work of their leader, and we must rely on God to keep us steadfast in His grace.
“Our creation in God’s image suggests further that we will never know what it truly means to be human until we attain knowledge of Him in whose image we are created.”6 Thus, I’m “confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil. 1:6).
May we be encouraged to be followers of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Johnetta B. Flomo serves as senior editorial assistant in the Stewardship Ministries Department of the General Conference, assistant editor of Dynamic Steward magazine, and associate editor of the GodFirst newsletter.