“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1, NIV)
As a new ministry leader, I remember enthusiastically telling our congregation to watch me, as I intended to embrace my complete destiny in Christ. I was convinced that it was as simple as completely and wholeheartedly following Him.
That was almost ten years ago, but I still believe the same thing. When we follow Christ and inspire others to do the same, we can impact our world for kingdom purposes. One of the most powerful ways to influence others is to lead them by example in Christ.
More Than Popularity
“Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’” (Matt. 4:19)
There’s something intriguing about the account of Jesus calling four fishermen to be His disciples. Such a simple invitation, yet it compelled them to leave their livelihood and families to follow someone they had only just met!
It was not just the disciples Jesus exhorted to follow Him. After speaking with the woman caught in adultery, Jesus told those present, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). And as we follow His light, we become that light to the world!1
There were times, of course, when great crowds followed Jesus and other times when almost everyone turned away. And when Peter, after denying the Lord three times, was restored following the resurrection, Jesus brought the discussion full circle with the reiteration of the charge, “Follow Me.”2
Although it can be great to have a large following, numbers are not necessarily the mark of a good leader. Jesus never let the crowds impress Him, for He understood the fickle nature of men’s hearts—sometimes the crowds followed because they wanted a free lunch!3
The Heart of Leadership
“Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23)
I’ve heard it said that when we stand before the Lord, the only thing we will still possess from our life on earth is our character. Character refers to the true heart—or inner nature—of a woman or man. Anyone desiring to be a leader in any capacity should cultivate integrity.
Humility is another essential element in a leader. Jesus set the ultimate example when He willingly laid aside His divine privileges and took on the form of a man, humbling Himself even to the point of death on a cross (see Phil. 2:5-8).
Perhaps the greatest illustration of servanthood was Jesus washing the disciples’ feet. He certainly taught them on this principle before, but this time He chose to show them. “For,” He said, “I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15).4
There’s something so compelling about a leader following a leader. Even Jesus followed—as He Himself was led by the Father. Essentially a godly leader says, “Follow me as I follow Christ as He follows the Father!”
Like A Tree
“For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters… and will not fear when heat comes… and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit.” (Jer. 17:8)
Jesus lived for 30 years before ministering for 3 and ½ —almost a 10 to 1 ratio of preparation to performance. Manifestation of leadership often requires a period of development. Those faithful in small things will see the release of large.
The Lord has hidden many of His faithful servants until the right time. Joseph and Esther, for example, both went through a period of preparation before emerging as leaders—but there was also an element of timing involved. In Joseph’s case, a period of famine would necessitate a deliverer, and Esther emerged as a leader of God’s people for a specific purpose, as well.
Recently, I had a vision supplementing this word about the right time. I saw a large tree with a substantial underground trunk, or root. A shoot had come up above ground from a point just below the surface; its juncture with the trunk/root was shallow, and it popped up right away.
But another shoot sprang up from this trunk at a juncture much further underground. It took far, far longer to see this shoot, but it was tapped much deeper into its source. The second and deeper shoot was much stronger and capable of lasting longer. Like the tree planted by the waters, it could survive hardship and drought.
No one wants to be that leader who burns fast and bright, but quickly goes out. Anyone can have leadership gifts and a calling. But it takes preparation and strength of character to be able to fight the good fight and finish the race.
If You Follow Christ, You Can Lead
Maybe you have disqualified yourself as a leader—perhaps you feel inadequate or that you cannot overcome your past. But as you follow Christ, you can lead someone else by example. You only need to persevere in the process.
You can be a leader of society in some way. Every person has an influence in at least one sphere of society (family, business, government, education, media, arts/entertainment, church/religion). A stay-at-home mom can have a huge impact on society by raising children with godly character, for example, or someone earning a wage can impact the business sector. And most will have an influence in more than one area.
Whatever places and spheres you occupy, I pray the Lord would release you as a leader!
For additional study:
John 2:23-25, 6:26-27
Matt. 23:11; Luke 22:24-27