Are You Someone That People Should Imitate?

In order to lead confidently, you must be reasonably sure that you are someone that others should follow. You must believe that the words you speak and ways you model are worth following if you are going to encourage others to imitate you. But this must be done with care and with a caveat.

If you are someone that people naturally follow there is always a temptation to conform them to your own image. But if we are merely seeking to enlist others into a clone army our domain we will soon become an evil empire, and all the usual totalitarian impulses will rise up in us. We become agitated that those we seek to control won’t get with our clearly delineated program. The ego inflates, the nose elevates, and the eyes can’t bear to look below.

“What is with these people, Lord? Why won’t they become more like me? Why can’t they see that my way is the best way? Don’t they see how balanced/godly/disciplined I am? How can they not want that for themselves?”

Like me, you have probably never said these things to God… out loud! But try saying them to yourself now and see if there isn’t a ring of truth to them. When we ask these questions of God and fail to see how foolish they are, pride stokes the furnace of ego and the fire of evil is not far off. In being frustrated with the lack in others we are reinforced in our impressions of our own superiority.

So there is a dark side to inviting people to imitate us. If we do not deny the temptation to become the focal point of people’s affections, we will end up doing a lot of damage – to them and to us. It is a risky course of action. But it is a risk we are commanded to take.

Inviting people to imitate us only goes badly when when we are the end point of their affections. More than once the Apostle Paul implores the people to whom he is writing, “Be imitators of me” (1 Cor. 4:16; Phil. 3:17). But this cuts two ways and it cuts fast. When we ask others to imitate those areas of our lives which are not conformed to the way of Christ, we lead them into nothing but sin.

Paul says imitate me, but with a caveat. “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1) When we speak the caveat, we give permission to reject anything in us that doesn’t conform to that standard. If we do that we will have a chance at keeping the false god Ego in check. We kill that monster of ego with humility.

If you want to learn humility, opportunities are not in short supply. Simply submit to the path that God is pointing you down and begin to walk. Before long, your opportunities will come along.

Choose Today Whom You Will Please

“If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of God.” (Galatians 1:10)

Paul set a good example of disregarding people’s expectations if those expectations were in conflict with God’s. In other words, he didn’t play politics with the pastorate. He didn’t care about pleasing people who could “do something for him” or help him move up the ladder. (The whole concept of “moving up the ladder” in terms of pastoring is an oxymoron. But I digress… fodder for another post…)

If we pastors today could be so absolute and so bold about pleasing God and not man our churches would be better off, and we would probably face rejection and hardship more often.

But let’s not err on the opposite side. Paul wasn’t at odds with everyone, just with those who were at odds with God. This is a distinction we need to be careful to learn. He wasn’t one of those guys who did the opposite of what he was told just to prove that nobody was going to tell him what to do.

Many pastors worry that if a number of people in the church don’t like them they must be doing something wrong. Others worry that if too many people like them they must be doing something wrong.

Either could be true, or untrue. Sometimes people dislike a pastor for reasons that should concern him and about which he should do something. In other cases, people dislike a pastor for reasons that should not concern him and about which he should most certainly not do anything. There is a lot of discernment involved in this occupation.

But we know this: people do love to be pleased, and many pastors feed off of approval. This type of symbiotic relationship can develop but it is a relationship with deadly consequences.

Churches often hire people-pleasing party planners instead of prophetic types because prophets throw very strange parties and very few enjoy them. (But the ones who do, REALLY do.)

So the people-pleaser could receive the praise and support of the people while an obedient servant would be bound, gagged, thrown on a raft and sent down the river by the same people. The next time you see a guy floating by, bound, gagged, on a raft… there may be very good reasons to just let him pass. But it could just be that he’s just the guy you’ve been looking for. You won’t really know until you have a conversation.

If a man’s chief aim is to please people he is probably more likely to remain employed – you know, polls and approval ratings and all that – but he will also inevitably disappoint God. And this will always be to the eventual detriment of any church. The praise of man improperly received, once metabolized, mutates into poison for the soul.

But if a man’s chief aim is to please God, people in the church will be blessed even if he is eventually rejected by the majority. So there is your choice: choose today whom you will please.