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Follow the Leader
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“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” I guess the person who says that sarcastically sets himself up as the standard for virtue, against which our actions should be measured. It is said jokingly, as in “Stay out of trouble” with a wink.
I learned a lesson about leadership—without words—from a seminary professor who doubled as our church’s technical wizard. He was in charge of the large church, seminary, school, and camp sound systems, visual equipment, and recording studios. Needless to say, it was a lot of work. Oh, and did I mention, he was also the seminary librarian? He was an intelligent man and a hard worker.
He could be found working at any hour: driving all night to pick up parts or books; building library shelves while others slept; crawling inside the ceilings at camp in 100+ degree heat; and even hanging his 200+ pound body from rafters, using his knees, 40 feet above the sanctuary floor to hang microphones. He was a hard worker, and he demanded hard work from his volunteers.
My professor’s demands were not always conveyed vocally; they were expressed through his example. The lesson hit home with me when one of our volunteers said, “Jim would never ask you to do something he wouldn’t do.” What a concept! If Jim asked you to hang from the rafters by your knees, you knew he would have hung beside you.
Follow the Leader is a popular children’s game, in which one person—a.k.a. the Leader—walks around doing silly things while the others—a.k.a. Followers—imitate the Leader’s actions. It’s fun and silly and instructive.
The Bible can be fun, is never silly, and is certainly instructive. In it, we learn lessons of leadership from such great leaders as Moses, Nehemiah, and Jesus, the greatest leader of all.
Let’s start with a question: What is a Christian? The simple answer is, a follower of Christ, or “little Christ.” Similar concepts include “disciple” and “student.” Followers of Christ are even referred to as “children” (Matthew 5:9; Romans 8:16, 17). The Apostle Paul encouraged believers to “be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1).
What does it mean to imitate God? “Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God's holy people” (Ephesians 5:2, 3). It means to live a life of sacrificial love and purity. It means to follow Jesus Christ, who led the way by example. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Jesus is no longer physically present, but he has called godly people to lead his flocks and teach them by example. Paul sums up the responsibilities of Christian leaders and followers: “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). But note his qualification: we are to imitate leaders as they imitate Christ. If a leader is not following Christ, if a shepherd is not obeying the Chief Shepherd, then the sheep need to walk away.
There are too many bad examples to follow:
“In a similar way, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (Jude 1:7).
“Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience” (Hebrews 4:11).
“These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11).
If you are a leader, no matter what your age or gender, you are responsible to model Christ for your followers. “Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). “Teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God” (Titus 2:3–5).
If you are a follower, make sure you are following someone who follows Christ, and “obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account. Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17).
If a godly person says, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” then it’s time to play Follow the Leader!
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