When I was a young girl in grade school you would have probably called me a "follower" - I went along with the crowd, but was too shy to actually take the lead myself. Anyone who knows me now would say just the opposite. In looking back at the difference which Christ made in my life, I would have to say one of the clearest things is this transition from being a "follower" of others. In fact, if you were to look back, "going along" with the crowd got me into more pickles than I really want to give an accounting of right now! Trying to win the attention and approval of others, striving to have some degree of "popularity", etc. all ended up in some pretty bad decisions in my life. You may have been one of the "crowd followers", as well, so you know what I am saying here. It doesn't pay to follow the crowd - we need good role models to follow, not just popular ones!
Friend, don’t go along with evil. Model the good. The person who does good does God’s work. The person who does evil falsifies God, doesn’t know the first thing about God. (3 John 1:11 MSG)
Caution is necessary in determining who we will "get behind" in this life - the wrong leader makes for some pretty rocky journeys indeed. Alexander Pope was a poet of days gone by, but I like one of the things he penned: "A person who is too nice an observer of the business of the crowd, like one who is too curious in observing the labor of bees, will often be stung by his curiosity." Let that one sink in a bit and it will hit home for those of us who have been "crowd observers" at some point in our lives. We get "stung" by our curiosity and our pursuits for their approval, don't we? Clearly, we need to become savvy in following the "right crowd" - not just in following!
Unfortunately, too many times the crowd really has not idea where they are going! They just have this "herd mentality" - kind of just all mulling together and following whoever seems to be in front of them. Put your head down long enough and you lose sight of who is actually leading. Maybe this is why we are frequently warned about being "oblivious" to our surroundings, "unaware" of the leaders we align with, and "impressed" with all the charisma of some while discounting the silent example of others. If the truth were known, most of us would admit to being a little caught up in the "herd mentality" more than we'd truly like to admit. Why? We don't consider our steps - we just "go along" because we are pushed, or feel pulled.
This is why it is so important to consider the behavior modeled - does it line up with the values proclaimed? So many agree with the adage of actions speaking louder than words - I think this may even be biblical! When we have good models, it is easy to get behind their actions. When we hear one thing, and then see something quite different modeled, it may leave us wondering who we can trust. This is probably why so many "big names" in TV evangelism, big church movements, etc. find themselves totally undone when a scandal of sorts reaches the media. Their lives are scrutinized by many and the behavior they model has to match up with the words they preach - otherwise their lack of congruent behavior/words will become fodder for the masses.
We all model behavior - some to huge crowds, some to smaller ones - but all model some type of behavior which is under the scrutiny of someone who is looking to them to be a leader in their lives. Even when you don't think this to be the case, you might be surprise who is "on the outside looking in". As we walk through this life, we need not only to be aware of who it is we are following, but what impact we may be making on those who are somehow following us. Truly, we must guard against the "herd mentality" as it comes to our spiritual lives - we cannot believe just because someone else believes that way. We have to be students of the Word - testing and trying every teaching to ensure it is aligned with the "whole" of scripture. By this I mean we cannot take one passage, hanging our hats on it in "exclusion" of all other scripture. We have to see ALL God says - then formulate the practices which align with the "whole" of what is taught.
We also have to guard against this "herd mentality" when it comes to our norms or values. Crowds are not the best at "defining" what should be the "norm" for our lives. We need to allow the wisdom of scripture, the safety of the Holy Spirit's internal "monitoring system", and the integrity of Christ's example to help us formulate the set of "norms" or values we will adhere to in our lives. These will hold up to the scrutiny of onlookers and the passage of time. These will assist us in developing a keen awareness of the "imposters" in our midst - those things and individuals who appear one way, but really act another. We need a vantage point from which to view the direction of the crowd's wandering - the one in the herd only sees the "rear" in front of them!
As we begin to model good in our own lives, others will notice. This is what God has in mind - for us to become excellent examples of behaviors consistent with his teachings, modeled after the example we see in Christ, and aligned with the values he concentrated so much time and effort in getting us to learn. This "modeled" life is truly one we can "get behind" - but never take your eyes off the true "leader" - for our focus really needs to remain on Christ. The model we see in those who have chosen to live above the crowd is really just a means of us getting to see "God with a bod". Just sayin!