the weblog of Alan Knox

Replay: Follow the Leader or Simon Says?

Posted by on Sep 8, 2012 in elders, service | 12 comments

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Follow the leader or Simon says?” In the post, I compared the two children’s games “Follow the leader” and “Simon says.” Believe it or not, both children’s games have leaders, but the leader in one game functions quite differently than the leader in the other game. I one of these games is a good example of how “leaders” should function among the church, while the other game is a good example of how “leaders” often function today among the church… unfortunately.


Follow the leader or Simon says?

I’m working on a series about the role and function of elders among a community of believers. I’ve discussed leadership on this blog before, and those posts usually generate great discussions both online and off-line. I hope to begin publishing that series next week, but I may have to push it back another week. As I study, the series keeps expanding.

As I was thinking about the relationship between elders and leading, I thought about two children’s games: “Follow the leader” and “Simon says”.

In the game “Follow the leader”, children follow the actions of a “leader”. If the “leader” walks, then the others walk. If the “leader” runs, the the others run. The “leader” is doing everything as an example for others to “follow”. But, the important point here is that the “leader” is doing – he or she is active. The other children in line follow the example of the “leader’s” actions.

In the game “Simon says”, children follow the directions of a “leader”. If the “leader” says, “Walk”, then the others walk. If the “leader” says, “Run”, then the others run. The “leader” is not active. Instead, the “leader” tells the others what to do. The other children do not follow the example of the “leader’s” actions. Instead, the other children are supposed to follow the commands of the “leader”.

I think many churches are built around “Simon says” type leadership, while Jesus points to “Follow the leader” type leadership. In fact, there is only one “Simon” for the follower of Jesus Christ. And, while Jesus alone possesses the authority to command, he chose to come as a “Follow the leader” type leader.

We need more examples to follow, and less Simons to obey.


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 9-8-2012


    To me it is a healthy mix of both. From my spiritual father I have learned how to walk, in the sense of modeling my life after his in how he
    relates to his wife, his kids, his grandkids, his spiritual father, and so on. I physically have seen him do these things and pattern my life thusly. The lesson is: Life is a mine field, and I have walked further along than you have. So walk in my footsteps and you will avoid the land mines.

    However, there is also the element of Simon says, too. Sometimes, through The Spirit, he knows when to tell me Yes or No, and I listen because of his position in my life. Some may view this as me being weak-minded, but the truth is that he is accountable to our Father for his stewardship and spiritual fatherhood over me. If he leads me erroneously on purpose, or selfishly, he will have to answer to the One who judges all.

    So I follow his example and I do as he says when he says it.

  2. 9-8-2012

    How ’bout…Follow the Leader and Jesus Says…?

  3. 9-8-2012


    Hey, what about: Follow the Leader as long as they know what Jesus is saying…? 😉

  4. 9-8-2012

    Well, like all metaphors, the children’s games eventually fail. But, the point of the post is that human leaders (as described in Scripture) should be more like the leaders in “Follow the leader” than “Simon says.”


  5. 9-9-2012

    Yesterday, I wrote about who we should follow.

    My thesis was that we should follow the Spirit of Christ rather than following human leaders. But of course, if the Spirit tells me to follow this person or that person – I should certainly do so!

    I like the idea of following my leader providing my leader is Jesus. And I like the idea of Simon says as long as Simon IS Jesus. I’m just not so sure about following anyone else.

  6. 9-9-2012

    I meant to add that the best I can do for others is to set them a good example by following Jesus, and remind them that he’s an even better one to imitate – indeed THE best.

  7. 9-9-2012

    Alan, I have been cautiously following a few blogs and have chosen to comment on yours.

    I think there is a difference between the task of being the church and the task of preparing for an event or mission. When focussing on being the church we need servant model leaders to follow. For an event or mission associated with the church there may need to be leaders assigned to project manage and it is ok to receive and follow instructions related to that event or mission.

    When Paul chose Silas over Mark it was for a specific mission not a church leadership issue. The instructions to the churches in Paul’s letters were usually not orders but heartfelt requests. 1 Cor 1:10.

    A problem arises when church becomes a constant series of similar events (traditions) and the leaders not only manage the events but gain directional authority over all aspects of church life.


  8. 9-9-2012

    1 Peter 2:21(NET) For to this you were called, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example for you to follow in his steps.
    1 Corinthians 11:1(KJV) Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
    The first verse is ‘Follow the Leader’ while the second is ‘Simon Says’…”EVEN AS (G2531) I also am of Christ.”
    Wondering about ‘even as’ and not being a Greek scholar, I used Strong’s numbers and got:
    G2531 καθώς kathōs From G2596 and G5613; just (or inasmuch) as, that: – according to, (according, even) as, how, when.
    G5613 ὡς hōs Probably adverb of compound from G3739; which how, that is, in that manner (very variously used as shown): – about, after (that), (according) as (it had been, it were), as soon (as), even as (like), for, how (greatly), like (as, unto), since, so (that), that, to wit, unto, when ([-soever]), while, X with all speed.
    I take it to say that Paul was saying that, to the degree that he was following Christ, they were to follow him…I presume when that was not the case, they were not to follow (no ‘Simon Says’ in that case).

  9. 9-9-2012


    Scripture uses the Greek term for “leader.” I don’t see any problem with having leaders among the church. The question that I’m raising is who do we see as being “leaders”? According to Jesus, the leaders are the ones who are actually serving others, not necessarily the ones who are commanding others.


    I’m not exactly sure what distinction that you’re making. I know that some are gifted by God at administration, and they are normally very good at handling the details and logistics of events. But, whether we’re talking about an event or an ongoing mission, I still believe the best leaders are the ones who are actually doing the work. These people are setting the example that others can follow. (By the way, that service/example could be in the area of administration as well.)


    It’s interesting that you picked that command… a command by Paul to follow his example.


  10. 9-10-2012

    Hi Alan, I’m not suggesting that people cannot usefully lead. We need more leaders, not fewer. But these had better be people who are hearing from the Spirit of Christ and are responding in obedience. Then (and I would suggest ONLY then) do they become leaders worth following. If I follow someone who is deaf to the Spirit or disobedient I will be led into deafness and disobedience myself by following a poor example.

    Maybe I didn’t put it well in my original comment. But I think we are on the same page – at least, I hope so!

    Good leaders may well be serving others, but they will primarily be obediently serving Jesus. A poor leader may also serve others in a variety of ways, but ultimately they will not be helpful ways.

  11. 9-11-2012

    I’ve posted more on this, Alan.

    I’d appreciate your thoughts in a comment either there or here, if you have time and think it would be useful to do so.

  12. 9-11-2012


    Thanks for the explanation. I agree! I’m currently swamped after traveling for a few days, but I’ll try to get to your post and comment there.