The Power of Modeling
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1 ESV
Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 ESV
Never underestimate the power of your own example. Your pursuit of Christ and your application of the Word of God to life will challenge, encourage, and embolden those who are on the journey with you. The power of modeling is not limited to the ‘older and wiser’ as one might assume from Paul’s exhortation to imitate me as I imitate Christ. Rather, Paul’s exhortation to Timothy, a ‘youth,’ was to set the example for others in speech, behavior, and Christlike character.
It has been said, “More things are caught than taught.” In my own life I have been deeply impacted by a few whose life example so moved me to want to be like them – to follow their example as they followed Christ. But one thing is necessary for this type of modeling – it’s the principle of contact. We have to be in contact with others if we are to be a model for them. And once in contact, we also need to be transparent enough for them to see through any idealistic facades they may have in order to truly see our lives. These life models will be few, but their impact on us will be great and lasting.
There is one category of models for our development that is often overlooked. It’s the group of influencers that Dr. Bobby Clinton refers to as ‘historical mentors.’ Most of these we will not have the opportunity to meet personally, but we can ‘meet’ them through their biographies. For my own life, outside of the Bible, the greatest leader development books have been biographies of Christian leaders – particularly missionary biographies. As we read about their lives and how they personally pursued Christ, their example can serve to motivate and inspire us to great things for God. Remember, leaders are readers! Read biographies of great followers of Christ and you’ll be the better for it.
Here are a few titles that have deeply impacted and challenged me. If you have not yet read these, may I humbly suggest that these go onto your ‘to be read’ shelf.
- Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, by Howard and Geraldine Taylor (Moody Press)
- Behind the Ranges – The Life Story of J.O. Fraser, by Geraldine Taylor
- Gladys Aylward: The Little Woman, by Aylward and Hunter
- Through the Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot
We are all modeling, but the question is, “What are we modeling?”
May your own pursuit of Christ be a model for others to imitate.