Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ. 1 Corinthians 11:1(NKJV)
The idea behind a pattern is to be able to replicate the original. You want to reproduce it because it fulfills the purpose that it was designed to accomplish. God’s pattern that He gave us was Himself, in the person of Jesus. Hebrews tells us that He is the express image of the invisible God. He was exact, precise. To look at the life of Jesus, to listen to His words, and to pattern your life after His, is what we are called to do. As leaders in Jesus’ Church, our lives should mimic Jesus’ life so closely that we can say without hesitation what Paul did, “Imitate me just as I also imitate Christ.”
You see Paul was an example, a pattern. He could boldly tell others to examine his life and mimic it knowing that it lined up with the life, character and mission of Jesus. It is important that we consider ourselves a template for the Church as Paul did. What does that mean? Of course there is no other foundation but Jesus in the church, but as God’s ordained leader, the people that He has entrusted to you, will no doubt look to you for direction. As the head goes the body will follow. What we do as Church Planters, Pastors and leaders will be mimicked, imitated and duplicated by the body we lead. People’s sense of identity, mission and their view of Jesus will all be shaped largely by our influence. A friend of mine recently told me, “Vision is caught more than it is taught.” And I believe that speaks volumes to the largely directionless Church of the 21st century. We talk a lot about direction but our lives lack mission, and that is exactly what we are reproducing – people that talk a big game, but never really live it out. They are imitating what they are seeing in their leaders.
As leaders we need to make sure the pattern we are laying out for others to trace is worthy, because people are tracing our lives. Does our character, lives and mission line up with Jesus? We need to invest in our relationship with Jesus, sitting at His feet like Mary in Luke 10. How can we imitate Christ if we aren’t watching Him constantly; if we are not learning from Him and captivated by Him? If we don’t listen to His voice and words, how can we ever speak like Him? If we aren’t letting His grace, mercy and love wash over our lives how can we give to others what we are not receiving ourselves? Our number one priority as leaders is to be walking intimately with Jesus, if we aren’t, then we are a sketchy pattern, at best, and the people that imitate us will not look much different. We must take time to really examine our own lives and ask for honest feedback from people we trust if we are going to be worthy patterns for others to follow.
This is a heavy reality for a leader. Our doctrine, bents, mission, servanthood, preferences, mood, grace and love will all be the standard in which people within the body base their relationship with God on, and that which people in the community will judge Christianity and the Church. Paul says in 1 Timothy 1:16(NKJV):
However, for this reason I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show all longsuffering, as a pattern to those who are going to believe on Him for everlasting life.
Whether we want them to or not, the reality is, that people are going to look at our lives and pattern their lives accordingly. Therefore, we must take extra care to walk soberly, with integrity constantly praying that our character would increase and that we would be conformed into the image of Jesus more every day.
There are two healthy questions we can ask ourselves to understand how good of a pattern we are for others. 1) Can you say – imitate me just as I imitate Christ? 2) Are you happy with the pattern you see? If the answer to either is no, then it is time to allow God to reshape you. The church you lead will mirror you, if you don’t like the reflection look no farther than the man in the mirror.
By: Justin Gibbins