the weblog of Alan Knox

Lessons from the Trail 5 – Leaders

Posted by on Oct 22, 2008 in discipleship | 3 comments

In this series, I’m writing about life lessons that I learned while hiking part of the Appalachian Trail with my son and two friends. This “Life Lesson” is about leaders and leading.

During our hike, different people led at different times. Leadership was primarily determined by willingness, fitness, and restedness. For the most part, any of us were able to lead at different points along the trail. But, I noticed something interesting about different “methods” of leadership.

When Jim or I led, we stayed only a few steps ahead of the other people in the group. We would keep an eye on the people behind us almost as much as we kept an eye on the trail ahead.

When the boys led, they tended to walk as fast as they could, often moving along so far ahead of us that those following lost sight of the one or ones leading. In reality, at those times, we were no longer hiking together as a group.

When Jim or I led, we would stop when we came to a fork in the path to make sure that each person took the correct trail.

When the boys led, they would make the turn while they were far ahead of the others, and then they would keep going. Several times Jim and I reached a fork after the boys, hoping that we were all taking the same path.

What did I learn about leadership? Leadership is as much – if not more – about the people following than the people who are leading. Good leaders will always keep others in mind and in view. When a major decision comes along, good leaders will stop and make sure that everyone is taking the same path.

What do I see in the church today? Leaders run ahead in the direction that God is pointing them with very little concern for the people following. When a major decision comes along, leaders make the decision and exhort or admonish others to follow along.

Leadership has stopped being about serving others.

What do you think? Do my experiences with leadership on the Appalachian Trail demonstrate something to us about church leadership?


Lessons from the Trail:
1. Introduction
2. Preparation
3. Watching
4. Burdens
5. Leaders


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  1. 10-22-2008


    Just like the rest of America, I think the church has also developed a “me first” mentality. Not to mention an entitlement mentality.

    It’s been my experience that trends always start in the leadership. And, because others are following the leaders, they will follow their mentalities also.

    I think what you describe as your experience on the trail is quite comparable to the church. Although, with pre-teen and teenage boys this is to be expected. It should not at all be expected of church leadership. They are suppose to be mature.

    It’s no wonder why so many christians today are losing their way in life. But, then most churches today are about growing and maintaining an organization, not serving and being served.

    When pastors begin shunning worldly principles and start embracing true biblical principles, maybe things will change.

    I personally don’t see that happening anytime soon. Not in the institutional church anyway. Not in a place where big buildings and big bucks are the bottom line.

    The church needs to get back to loving and protecting others, rather than feathering its own nest. Especially considering that we are the church and not the expensive props.


  2. 10-22-2008


    I thought the same thing: Why are today’s church leaders acting like teenage boys?


  3. 10-23-2008

    I think it shows that the energy, enthusiasm and vitality of leadership needs to be tempered with the servant focus that Christian leadership is called to display.

    I had a boss years ago that always used to say teenagers are a treasure. They should be buried in the backyard and dug up in 20 years.

    We need leadership that we can treasure today because they serve the body as they get out in front and lead.