OceanSide church of Christ

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Victor M. Eskew

            Over the past several weeks, this writer has been shocked and disappointed by the actions of some who are seeking high level cabinet appointments in our government.  It has been discovered that at least four have failed to pay Federal income taxes in various dollar amounts.  These are public servants.  Their salaries are furnished by taxpayer dollars.  Upon seeing this debacle, the taxpayers have been angered.  We have to pay our taxes.  We DO pay our taxes.  Why haven’t our leaders done the same?  Our leaders are failing to lead by example.  They tell the America public to do as I say, but not as I do.

            Enough politics!  Leadership by example should be a high priority within the church of our Lord.  It doesn’t matter what leadership position one holds, he should lead his followers by his example.  During His earthly ministry, Jesus was the leader of a small band of men.  He trained them and mentored them for a period of three and a half years.  Jesus knew what it meant to lead by example.  In John 13, we read of an event in Jesus’ life wherein leadership by example was evident.  “He riseth from supper, and laid aside his garments; and took a towel, and girded himself.  After that he poureth water into a bason, and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with a towel wherewith he was girded” (John 13:4-5).  When Jesus finished washing the disciples’ feet, He made His point to the apostles.  “So after he had washed their feet, and had taken his garments, and was set down again, he said unto them, Know ye what I have done to you?  Ye call me Master and Lord:  and ye say well; for so I am.  If I then, your Lord and Master, have washed your feet; ye also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:12-15).  Jesus was willing to do the tasks of a slave.  He was willing, as their Master, to wash His disciples’ feet.  His actions set the example for the twelve.  They were to do as He had done.

            Paul understood the importance of leadership by example.  On two occasions in his writings, he exhorted his readers to follow him.  “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ” (I Cor. 11:1).  And again:  “Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do…” (Phil. 4:9, emp. mine, vme).  If Paul’s example had been evil and sub par, he would not have been worthy to follow.  Such was not Paul’s manner of life.  Paul sought to live as Christ lived (Phil. 1:21; Gal. 2:20).  He constantly kept under his body and brought it into subjection (I Cor. 9:27).  A person could walk in Paul’s footsteps and find his way to heaven.  Paul led by example.  He wanted others to follow him.

            The positions of both elder and preacher are leadership positions in the body of Christ.  The inspired writers exhorted the men in both of these positions to be examples to others.  Paul admonished Timothy, a gospel preacher, saying:  “Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example to the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (I Tim. 4:12).  Peter, who was himself an elder, commanded other shepherds with these words:  “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God’s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock” (I Pet. 5:2-3).

             Elders, preachers, teachers, parents, youth leaders, committee chairmen, and others are leaders within the body of Christ.  Each one of them needs to be keenly aware of the example he/she is setting before his followers.  Sadly, some fail to realize that their example is not what it should be.  Let’s look at a few illustrations of a failure to “lead by example.”

1.         This writer has seen those in positions of leadership who fail to take their “church attendance” seriously.  They miss Bible study on a regular basis.  They fall into the habit of missing Sunday nights and Wednesday evenings.  If Bible study and worship are not of concern to church leaders, why should they be important to their followers?  How can leaders who skip worship and Bible study actually expect their followers to be faithful in attendance?  This is especially true of parents.  Parents who are not committed to faithful attendance will eventually have difficulties with their children in this area as well.

2.         Another area in which leaders must take the lead has to do with the control of emotions, especially anger.  One of the qualifications of an elder is “not soon angry” (Tit. 1:7).  It is a sad day when men in leadership positions fail to control their tongues, shout and scream at others, storm out of rooms, make threats, and even come to blows with their brothers in Christ.  If a leader cannot remain calm and cool, how can he expect his followers to do the same?  NOTE:  This control of emotions needs to be practiced at the church building and in all other places as well, work and ball field included.

3.         Leaders must also take the lead in the area of morality.  God’s children have been called to be holy.  The bar has been set very high.  We are to be like the God of heaven (I Pet. 1:15-16).  Leaders must set the standard for their followers.  They must show that it is possible to live above the world and all of its lusts.  If they lapse into moral debauchery, it is impossible for them to confront their followers who commit immorality.  Adultery, fornication, drunkenness, lying, and cheating should not be a part of a leader’s manner of life.

4.         Another poor example is set when a leader will not do what he asks of his followers.  Gospel meetings, training seminars, door-knocking, work days, fellowship meals, and other activities are often part of the work of the church.  The membership is called upon to assist in these efforts.  Leaders set the wrong example when they fail to show up at these gatherings.  Their followers wonder if the leader(s) think he is above the mundane (Matt. 23:1-4).  They wonder if the leader believes that his time is more valuable than that of the members.

Leading by example is a vital part of the leader’s role.  He should set a high standard

for his followers.  If he does, many will rise to meet the standard.  If he fails to lead by example, his followers will be sub par in their behavior.  Too, the credibility of the leader will be less than desired among the followers.  The leader will find that he is not respected and that no one is willing to follow him.  Leaders show by their example that they are people of integrity.  They show that their faith and commitment are more than words.  They truly live the life they are asking others to live.