Christian Leadership Starts with Following
You must follow Jesus yourself first if you want to teach others to do so. You cannot give away that which you don’t have. You cannot teach what you don’t know. “Follow me as I follow Christ” is how Paul put it. This is the simple blueprint for his world-changing ministry. It is like a Jesus centered game of Simon Says. It can be hard to apply abstract concepts from the Bible to your life. It is so much easier to see them lived out and do what you see others do. People learn more by watching your life than by listening to you.
There is a challenge that goes along with this truth. You must actually live the life following Jesus first to show others how to do the same. Personal holiness is essential for anyone who seeks to disciple others.
It is a simple concept but is also the key to teaching godliness in others. “More is caught than taught” is the old ministry expression. It means if you want to help others you must first follow Christ openly and clearly. Only then can you tell others how to follow Christ openly and clearly. You then tell them to watch you following Christ fully…then repeat.
It is a straight forward framework. Yet it is the one that has made disciples for the last 2,000 years. It is Jesus’ way to change the world for Him.
You are Always Teaching
You are always setting an example as a Christian. You are always teaching others how to act as followers of Christ. What sort of lesson are you passing on?
This was demonstrated to me clearly by my daughter. It was early on in my adventure as a Dad. She was not much more than a toddler. I was trying to be a good father and teach her good values. I instructed her about the use of “bad words”. I was never much of a bad language user even before I was saved so I thought I was doing a great job…until the day we were stuck in traffic.
I heard a sweet little voice from the back of the van say an impolite expression of disgust. It was not a curse and many people think little of it. I was horrified with it coming out of the mouth of my toddler. I want better for her than that. “Others can use the acceptable substitutes for cuss words but not my baby”, I thought to myself. She would avoid all unwholesome talk as Ephesians 4:29 says. Where had she heard such a thing?
It took me only about a half a second to realize it was me. Just moments before I had expressed my frustration with my fellow drivers in the very same way. My example directly led to her actions. My hypocrisy was shown to me by a sweet little toddler.
I could tell her not to use unwholesome words all I wanted. Yet, since I lived differently she would follow that more than my contradictory words.
More is caught than taught.
It does not mean I was a bad person or failing completely as a parent. I was just sowing behaviors into my little disciple that I did not want to take root due to my behavior. My words and actions were out of step with one another.
Be the Holy Example
But we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you withdraw from every brother who walks disorderly and not according to the tradition which he received from us. 7 For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you;
2 Thessalonians 3:6-7
Are you out of step with Jesus?
The word unruly in the verse above is a military term. It means off the rhythm or out of step with the rest of the group. Think of a group of soldiers marching in unison. Now picture the one out of a thousand who is doing his own thing. The one soldier out of step is only noticeable because of all the others who are marching properly. The one is judged against the proper standard. You have to have the proper standard in order to determine if something is outside of the expectations.
What is amazing is Paul invites the churches to use him as this standard. He says they can know the truth by comparing the lies to him. Paul’s life and his example are so aligned with Jesus the church can look to him when in confusion. He is confident he is marching to the right cadence. Anything outside of his beat is false. This does not mean Paul is perfect. It does mean he is following Jesus in all things. Paul’s standard is unapologetically Jesus.
Jesus sets out the same idea when calls Himself the cornerstone. This was the stone put in by ancient builders in the corner of a structure to start construction. It was placed carefully as every other measurement for the building was based on that stone. Each additional stone was judged to be in the proper places or not based on the line set by the cornerstone. Jesus establishes every measurement for you as well as a living stone. Paul knew this and aligned himself with Jesus’ example.
Can you say the same? What rhythm are you marching to?
When in doubt follow me is Paul’s clear message. He expresses it so simply in 1 Corinthians 11:1
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ
and 1 Timothy 4:12
but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.
Follow me following Christ is Paul’s direction to the churches. They should walk like Paul does following Jesus.
It is the key to discipleship.
Follow Christ, tell them others to follow Christ, tell them to watch you following Christ and then walk that out.
Are you doing it?
Imitate Me as I Imitate Jesus
The questions are so straight forward even a child can answer.
Are you able to exhort others to follow you since you are following Christ?
What is your standard?
This does not mean you follow Christ perfectly but earnestly and continually.
In victory and in defeat, in much or want, are you following Christ so that the one following can see you and be taught to do the same!
I have done everything we can to disciples a man or woman of God.
Who is your example?
Christ or not? You are either gathering or scattering.
Which is it for you?