Lead By Example
Let no one look down on [you because of] your youth, but be an example and set a pattern for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, and in [moral] purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
God has given all of us skills and talents, but He is more interested in the character of the man or woman who uses these abilities. Certainly we can be good examples to others who watch us,Odell the skills we use in our work. They can learn a lot from us. But they can learn even more by watching how we treat our spouses and children and our fellow employees, how we respond to annoying people and difficult situations, and how we talk about corporate executives when they make poor decisions.
In the business world, we may expect people to look out for themselves, to do whatever it takes to climb the corporate ladder, and to use people every step of the way. When a Christian goes out of his or her way to care for someone who is hurting, overlooks petty offenses and and takes steps to resolve big ones, finds something else to do when the rest of the team goes to a strip club, and exudes a positive attitude while being ruthlessly honest about difficulties- people notice!
All of us have a hundred choices to make each day. We may not recognize many of them because we’re so steeped n habitual attitudes and behaviors, but we have constant opportunities to demonstrate love or selfishness, faith or doubt, hope or complaints, purity or sinful passion. Habits can be broken, but not without heartfelt prayer and tenacity to make different choices. If we choose to be Christ’s examples to those around us, we’re in for a great ride of seeing Him touch people through us. Don’t miss it!
Charisma may place you at the front of the line. Only character will keep you there.
Years ago I heard a phrase describing how we as Christians could impact our world. “It’s better caught than taught.” Let that sink in for a moment. Most of us are to some degree influenced by our environment and often we mimic the behaviors of those around us. Our perceptions are formed from observation frequently more so than through training. I think we all know that “do as I say and not as I do” doesn’t work.
I’m at the stage of life that my children are grown and have children of their own. As I watch them raising their children very often I hear one of my phrases coming out of their mouths. They have said to me in some form, “Dad, the other day, I heard you coming out of my mouth.”
There is a little poem I heard some years ago. I don’t remember all of it but the words that spoke to me than and still echo are these: I’d rather see a sermon than to just hear one.”
Jesus, told Thomas that if he wanted to know the Father to look at Him. In other words Jesus was imitating the Father and making known who He was by how He was acting. Paul will say to us, “Follow me as I follow Christ.” You May say that you certainly aren’t in those categories but whether or not we feel capable or qualified somebody is making life choices through observing us.
A more modern phrase is “walk the talk.” In other words if we are going to say it we also have to live it.
Over the years in ministry I’ve made a few observations. If we live a double life, our children will choose the worst one to imitate. If our life at church isn’t mirrored at home, usually the home life will prevail. I remember a dad coming to me concerned that his teenage son was starting to drink alcohol. He told me that he had told his son to not drink but he wasn’t listening. I said to this dad that his words had no value since that he himself would come home every day and sit in the recliner and drink beer. Monkey see, monkey do.
As leaders, the behavior we model with the group we lead will become the groups behavior. Whether it’s at home, on the job, or at work, what we do will have more influence that what we say.
No group rises above the level of its leader. As a matter of fact the group level is usually pretty much obviously lower than the leaders. So if we want those around us to rise to a certain level, we have to rise to higher levels.
You see when parents are unfaithful to God, their children many times become less faithful. When parents make everything but church their priority, their children usually won’t make it a priority. When church leaders are lax in their commitment to God and the church, the congregation becomes less committed. When Christians begin to lower the bar of holy living, the world at large takes it even lower. To reverse the curse, to change the trends, and to turn the tide, leaders must be the first, the most determined and the most committed to bring about the change. The awesomeness of God is that it’s never too late to turn back.
By the time Jesus came, the religious leaders had drifted so far from God that the rituals were mostly empty shells that had little to no effect on the spirituality of the people. But Jesus began to model a different way and lo and behold it caught on. As a matter of fact it caught on so well that the disciple became known as those who had been with Jesus and the people at Antioch coined the word Christian which means “little Christs.” We teach in the church that Christians are to model their lives after Christ but we must also be aware that there are those who model their lives after us. Let us become like Paul who said, “Follow me as I follow Christ.”
It’s time for a spiritual revolution, a revival, a renewal. Let us cease giving excuses for our conduct and actions. Let us instead repent that we have become influenced by the world around us, taking our cues from ungodly sources, and believing that as long as we say the right things, we’re safe. Let us first of all “look to Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith” as our role model. Let us take the acronym WWJD off our bracelets and inscribe it on our hearts. Let us pause before every word we speak, every activity we engage in and every priority we set and ask ourselves whether or not it reflects what we want people to know about Christ. Let the church realize that it has the power to influence culture rather than being influenced by culture. Let leaders in every place rise. Let them rise in the family. Let every dad make the Joshua proclamation: “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Let every dad get up on Sunday and lead the family in worship. Let every mom make worshipping together as a family her priority. Let parents lead the family in prayer and study of the Bible and following God. Let every church leader be the first to commit to the ministries of the church. Let them lead the congregation in the pursuit of more of God, more knowledge about God, more enthusiastic worship of God, and more involvement in the mission and purposes of God. Let business leaders and community leaders recognize that as they practice and model the Christ-given values, that the corporate world and the community will begin to practice what they observe. Let us talk less and act more. Let us become aware that we are being observed and how we act at all times is critical to those watching. We are not islands. We are influencing someone every day.
When I was in textiles, we always first made sample garments. These were carefully formed to the proper pattern and became the standard by which production garments were compared. We must continually go back to the sample- Christ and we must measure ourselves by Him. But we should also remember that it’s the production garments that the public sees and wears. To keep on track we must always measure by the standard of Christ but our own behavior and acts have great influence over those who observe us. Someone said that we are often the Bible that people read. When someone sees you what do they perceive about Christ?
I conclude with the words of a dear missionary friend who shared them some years ago: What one generation condemns, the second generation tolerates and the third generation embraces.
As I’ve pondered his words I’ve realized that the declining progression quite often is that while we may keep saying the same thing our actions speak otherwise so the following generations perceive that we’re not serious about what we say.
May God raise up spiritual leaders in our homes, churches and communities who lead by example rather than attempting to lead by words.
Dr. John Thompson