Imitate Church Leaders
If we are not under the authority of leaders in the church, how then are we to respond to our leaders? We are to be imitators of them as they are imitators of Jesus. Paul urges the church in Corinth to be imitators of him.
I urge you, then, be imitators of me. (1 Cor 4:16 ESV)
Paul, in the same letter, again urges the church in Corinth to be imitators of him, but adds the qualifier "as I am of Christ."
Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ. (1 Cor 11:1 ESV)
Here Paul acknowledges that the church in Thessalonica had become imitators of him and the Lord, and that in doing so they became examples for other believers.
And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia. (1 Th 1:6–7 ESV)
Paul instructs his brothers, in Jesus, to imitate him, and to pay attention to those who do what he does, and to use them as an example.
Brothers, be imitators together of me, and note those who walk this way, even as you have us for an example. (Phil 3:17 WEB)
The Berean Study Bible expresses the meaning very well.
Join one another in following my example, brothers, and carefully observe those who live according to the pattern we set for you. (Phil 3:17 BSB)
The writer to the Hebrews has this to say:
And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. (Heb. 6:11–12 ESV)
Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God. Consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith. (Heb 13:7 ESV)
The apostle Paul instructed Timothy, a young leader in the church, to be an example.
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 Tim 4:12 ESV)
The apostle Peter had this to say to the elders of the group that he was writing to:
As a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings, and a partaker of the glory to be revealed, I appeal to the elders among you: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is among you, watching over them not out of compulsion, but because it is God’s will; not out of greed, but out of eagerness; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
Young men, in the same way, submit yourselves to your elders. And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because,
“God opposes the proud,
but gives grace to the humble.”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, so that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1Pet 5:1–7 BSB)
Word of Warning
Be careful, brothers and sisters in Jesus, who you imitate. Leaders in the church are imitators of Jesus the Christ. They are humble, giving all the glory and honor to God. They are servants, who feed, care for, and protect their fellow Christians. If they are not doing these things, then they are not leaders in the church; do not follow them, do not imitate them. Jesus gave this often misunderstood warning:
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. (Matt. 24:4–5 ESV)
"come in my name"
If I come in the name of Jesus, this means that I come with authority that He has given me. It does not mean that I am claiming to be Jesus.
‘I am the Christ’
The original Greek text does not contain quotes. Jesus is not quoting those who come in his name. He is saying that they are affirming that He is the Christ.
Truly many have come claiming to be Christians acting according to the will of Jesus. They continually affirm that Jesus is the Christ, and they have lead many astray. The bible contains many warnings to the church about these people, and calls them false apostles, false prophets, false teachers, and wolves. I could get into all of these texts, but the topic deserves an article of its own. They have caused much confusion and division by making people disciples of this man, or that man, of this teaching, or that teaching. What they have not done, these deceivers, is make disciples of Jesus, the Christ, the only true teacher.
Imitate the true leaders in the church, as defined by the word of God, as they imitate Jesus. When you do this, you too will become a leader in the church for new christians to imitate. When we do this, we all become one in Jesus the Christ, and there is no division amongst us, because our focus is on the one and only Christ.
This is a work in progress. Please come back soon.If you have any questions or comments.