One of my goals as a church planter and pastor was to get people to follow Jesus. I remember as a young man doing everything possible to get people’s eyes off of me and onto Jesus. To this day, when I pray for people I never ask “How can I pray for you?” I always deflect attention from myself by asking, “What do you need Jesus to do for you?” While this desire to get people to follow Jesus and not me is often good and noble, it is not realistic and may not even be Biblical.
I probably don’t need to remind you that even Paul encouraged people to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 1:11), and to “imitate” him in their discipleship journey (1 Corinthians 4:16). The hard truth is if you are going to be an effective leader, people will follow you. The real question is do we have lives worth following? If they follow me, where will it lead them?
I believe it is essential for Christian leaders to regularly ask ourselves, “Am I living a life worth following?” Let me suggest three questions we should ask ourselves to make sure our life is a life worthy of following. Please remember we ultimately want people to follow Jesus, but they will start by following us.
Does my life lead people to an encounter with Jesus?
When you follow some pastors around for any length of time you run into their politics, church polity or their theological systems. Now it’s certainly not wrong to have positions or opinions, but if people don’t encounter Jesus through our lives, they will miss the gospel no matter how “pure” our theology.
In Paul’s case, it is worth noting that he didn’t trade in his Jewish theological system for a Christian theological system. His heart and passion were to “know Christ,” “gain Christ,” and “be found in Christ” (Philippians 3:7-11), so that others would encounter Christ through him. My most significant mentors always led me to Jesus when I followed them. While people may love and follow me at first, I always want them to end up in love with Jesus.
Is my life making an eternal impact?
This is not a question rooted in breadth of ministry or wide popularity. This is a question about depth and eternal impact in the lives of people I encounter. My dad never pastored a church larger than 400 people, but the eternal impact of his life is significant.
When I was a young pastor, I looked around for leaders who were having the kind of impact I wanted to have. I unashamedly “attached” myself to them with tenacity and grit. I wanted to follow them and learn from them everything I could. I believe in Biblical impartation that comes from long term accountability and connection.
Men like John Wimber and Terry Wardle were my early mentors who helped shape my vision for a life of eternal impact. Life is too short to spend it only paying bills. I want the impact of my life to last long after I am gone.
Finally, is my life marked by joy?
Let’s be real honest for a minute: Life is painful and is often marked by profound sadness. I cannot deny that reality and I have had my fair share of it. But brothers and sisters, we serve and live in a reality that is not just of this world.
We are citizens of a higher Kingdom and a grander economy. Romans 14:17 says our new Kingdom is marked by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” At the risk of sounding trite, let me exhort you to learn how to have fun! The fun I am speaking of here goes deeper than circumstantial happiness. It is the joy of the Lord that allows us to laugh even in the midst of pain. That kind of joy and fun is contagious, and the world needs more of it. A leader who exudes deep joy and knows how to have fun will never lack for followers.
I still want people to follow Jesus. I still would rather not have people focus on me. But it appears that the plan of God is to lead others to Him through our living examples. Jesus, give us lives worth following that you may be found in the end.
Dr. Ron Walborn
Alliance Theological Seminary
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