Saturday, May 3, 2008


If any of you wants to be my follower . . . let him. Jesus

Acknowledgment: Rarely (at least for me) does a book written about business organization present metaphor that parallels faith in Christ. However, I have strung together some stories from The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power Of Leaderless Organizations that does just that.

In 1519 Hernando Cortes stared in disbelief at the Aztec metropolis -- Tenochtitlan. Expecting to see savages, instead he saw an organized and civilized community. Cortes witnessed a developed system of highways, ingeniously constructed aqueducts, spectacularly ornate temples, and mystically intriguing pyramids.

He also saw gold. Everywhere!

Cortes arranged a meeting with Montezuma II, the leader of the Aztecs. His conversation was not a friendly one -- it was a monologue that could be summed up -- give me your gold, or I will destroy you. Montezuma believed that Cortes might be a deity and decided to yield his vast resources. Shortly after that, Cortes repaid Montezuma's trust and submission by killing him, placing the city under siege, and cutting off its food and water supplies. Within 80 days 240,000 were dead -- within 2 years the civilization that preceded Christ by centuries -- collapsed.

Less than a decade later Francisco Pizarro captured and killed the leader of the Incas, Atahuallpa. They, too, were plundered, and within 2 years the society became an historical footnote.

Over a century later the conquering Spanish headed to the deserts of modern day New Mexico to force a Christian conversion upon the natives there. They would make them Catholics -- they would transform them from hunters into farmers.

The primitive people were the Apaches. The Apaches had nothing -- except their way of life. No highway system. No permanent towns or cities. No pyramids. No gold. All that was valued was stored under their dark skin -- in their immense souls.

It did not work. They sure as hell had no intentions of becoming Catholic "Christians!"

For two centuries the Apache battled the Spanish tooth and nail. The wild people of the deserts persevered and prevailed. Why? Because every one of them fought from a spiritual compelling rather than command-and-control coercion of officers and strategy. Though militarily superior, the Spanish gave it up.

The Apache had no appointed chief or army commander, but they did have the Nant'an. A Nant'an was a spiritual leader who led by example -- not by coercion. Warriors fearlessly followed the Nant'an. Nant'ans lived, fought, and died alongside those they led. When one was killed, another seemed to incarnate the spirit of the fallen and press the fight forward. Inspired. Courageous. They resisted. Not because they had to, but because they wanted to.

The Apache have no word or concept for the phrase -- you should. Not one of those proud Native Americans had to follow their larger-than-life leaders. Neither Geronimo nor Cochise roared -- You should -- you must -- follow me! Apaches were empowered to choose against whom, and if, they would make war.

Today, there is another people who follow a Nant'an -- a spiritual leader. They, too, are wild, and stay close at his heels because they want to -- not because they have to. Their way of life has been passed along for centuries and is ferociously protected. These people of whom we speak are Christ-followers. Incarnating the Spirit of their leader, none of them are coerced converts. They are inspired. They are courageous. They willingly and individually respond to a fierce and rugged invitation -- If any of you wants to be my follower . . . let him.


  1. Brilliant! Brilliant! Brilliant post!

    If the church in America could just get this right...can you imagine?


  2. Great essay and book! I loved it and use the decentralizing approach a lot. Good for the Apaches. Too bad our government has lost the value of keeping spiritualism to temper governance.