Sermon notes: How to lead by example?

Introduction

The Timothean epistles were written in a time that a wave of false teachings swept the church of Ephesus. Paul appointed Timothy to the office of the “Senior Pastor” in the large church he planted in Ephesus to effectively combat these teachings and their sources. As the time passed by however Timothy faced a challenge much broader than false teachers.

Timothy as Paul’s successor supervised leaders who were older than he, people who had previously been supervised by the great apostle himself. Some of these leaders were not very enthusiastic about being led by a youngster. In the first century people up to the age of 40 were considered young. Many scholars believe Timothy was in his mid-thirties when he succeeded Paul. Most probably the false teachers also used Timothy’s young age as a weapon to underestimate his authority. The solution that Paul offered Timothy was an “exemplary life”.

Although the times have changed, young leaders in the church today have to deal with the same issue that Timothy already dealt with and an exemplary life is the only way to bridge the age gap not just in the church but everywhere else. In today’s sermon we are going to find out how young leaders could live a life of example so that others will listen.

Text: 1 Timothy 4:12-16

1. Speech

“Speech” is the first of five virtues St. Paul charged Timothy to live by. This is of utmost importance because,

(A) Words expose character, (Luke 6:45)

(B) Words either unites or divides, (Proverbs 15:1)

(C) Words either builds up corrupts, (Ephesians 4:29)

(D) Words either heals or hurts, (Proverbs 12:18)

(E) Words either sustains hope or kills, (Proverbs 29:20)

A leader is a person capable of influencing his followers with his words. Let’s compare two well known leaders in the recent history, Martin Luther King, Jr. and Adolf Hitler. In August 28th 1963, Luther delivered his best public speech titled “I have a dream” in which he called for an end to racism in the United States while Hitler’s first public speech after becoming the chancellor of Germany in the year 1933 inspired racism in the hearts of the fellow Germans. While Luther’s speech earned the freedom of blacks in America in the generations to come Hitler’s speech on that day sealed the fate of 11 million people around the world out of which 6 million were Jews.

Implications: In the Bible, especially in Proverbs and James, we find plenty of references to both godly and ungodly ways of using our tongue. We as leaders must carefully watch our words not only because our followers will judge us by our words, but good or bad whatever we say affects a wide spectrum of people. People take whatever we tell them very seriously because we are their leaders. We should evaluate our speech in a daily basis. Given below are some guiding questions we can use to evaluate ourselves.

(I) Does what I say judge sin and uphold righteousness?

(II) Is my speech flavored with the love of Christ?

(III) Do the words I speak edify my followers?

(IV) Do the words I speak honor Christ and draw people to Him?

The constant prayer of the sincere leader is “Set a guard over my moth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalms 141:3). This should be our prayer also.

2. Character

This is the second virtue Paul charged Timothy to live by. It is also the most important. If anyone calls himself a leader but cannot lead himself he is not a leader at all. To lead effectively we need the skills and gifts God bestowed upon us. Yet, a leader can never rise above his situation unless his character rests at the same level as his gifting. Sometimes people tell about leaders, “Here’s a great preacher, but he has a very short temper”. A leader cannot divorce his character from ministry because people shall not remember him for the sermons he preached but for the life he lived. Paul’s exhortation to Timothy introduces us to three qualities that are essential for character formation.

(I) Love

When Paul penned this epistle, Timothy was under pressure from his opponents. Naturally, he would be tempted to retaliate. Desperate situations call for desperate measures after all. Timothy would have desired to “teach them a lesson” or to make a cutting remark that would put them in their places. Yet the battles of the Kingdom are not won by natural methods invented by man nor those of Satan, because love is the greatest determining factor in all Christian behavior, (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Therefore no matter what the opponents and critiques would do to Timothy or say about him, Timothy was to avoid retaliation, bitterness, resentfulness, vengefulness, and un-forgiveness but seek only their good.

Implications: Practicing the principle of Christian love has never been easy. Experience has proved that unloving responses to various situations are able to produce quick results. Love in the other hand might not produce quick results. In the long run however it earns us three essential qualities we are required to have in order to be successful leaders. Jesus’ conversation with the Samaritan woman serves as a fine example here.

(A) Approachable – Jesus was approachable to anyone. Even to an adulterous Samaritan woman whom Jews condemned, (John 4:7).

(B) Maturity – The gentle manner in which Jesus confronted the woman and her need for the savior is a reflection of his spiritual and emotional maturity, (John 4:10-27).

(C) Loyalty – Consequently the entire village of Samaritans responded to Jesus within a matter of hours, (John 4:27-30).

(II) Faith

Dr. John Maxwell says, “Defining moments define the leader”. The way a leader respond to crisis tells others what kind of a leader he is? Let’s compare Saul and Jonathan, two biblical men to understand this better.

They both were leaders. But they responded to crisis in entirely different manner. In 1 Samuel 14:1-23 Jonathan and his armor bearer trusted God for victory and engaged the enemy frontlines single handedly. Saul in the other hand when faced with crisis consulted a spirit medium, (1 Samuel 28:1-24).

Implications: Our faith is constantly put to test through various problems. An immature leader under such conditions can react in three ways. (Reactions that stem from a lack of faith in God and his promises.)

(A) Adopt ungodly solutions, (1 Samuel 28:7)

(B) Give into despair, (1 Samuel 14:2)

(C) React irrationally, (1 Samuel 14:24)

Every Christian should have faith. Not just leaders. But what makes a leader’s case special? Jonathan and his armor bearer teach us why?

(A) Faith commands spiritual authority – The armor bearer’s words signify a commitment to his master far greater than an obligation or fulfilling a duty. (1 Samuel 14:7)

(B) Faith inspires – Jonathan’s faith inspired others into action. The Hebrews that were with the Philistines and the Israelites in hiding joined the battle in hot pursuit! (1 Samuel 14:20-23)

(C) Faith commands respect – Saul’s men respected Jonathan for his actions, (1 Samuel 14:45)

Such extraordinary faith cannot be grown over night. Jonathan probably exercised his faith in much simple situations before. Initially God allows much smaller and insignificant situations in life so that we learn to use the measure of faith given to us, (Romans 12:3). Gradually he allows more complicated situations. The leaders faith rise up to much higher levels each time he successfully  deals with these situations by faith.

(III) Purity

Purity is the third quality the leader’s example must reflect. This is twofold. Moral purity and integrity of the heart. Let’s have a close look at these.

(A) Moral purity – Two theological students were walking by a section in the city where old and used clothing is sold. A suit of clothes hanging on a rack by a window had this sign on it. “Slightly soiled – greatly reduced in price”. Upon seeing this one student said to the other, “We get soiled by allowing ourselves a little indulgence in lustful thoughts and acts; so when the time comes for our character to be appraised, we are greatly reduced in value.

The moral of the story is that even the slightest hint of sexual impurity has a vast impact on the leader’s character. St. Paul said there must not even be a hing of sexual immorality among God’s people because impurity actually starts with small hints of indulgence. But it grows with time and takes full control over the leader, his life and ministry. In the history of the church we come across many leaders whose glorious ministries ended up ingloriously because of sexual misconduct.

(B) Integrity of heart – On a job application one question read, “Have you ever been arrested?” The applicant wrote the word “No” in the space. The next question was a follow-up to the first. It asked, “Why?” Not realizing he did not have to answer this part, the applicant wrote, “I guess it’s because I never got caught.”

Integrity rewards the leader in many ways. But we are going to look at five basic results I read in “Developing the Leader within You” by Dr. John Maxwell.

(I) Establishes authority – Dwight Eisenhowever said “In order to be a leader a man must have followers. And to have followers, a man must have their confidence.” A leader cannot lead unless his followers recognize his authority. Hence unquestionable integrity becomes a leader’s supreme asset.

Sometimes leaders look to the organization they represent to make people oblige to follow. Hence they ask for a new title, another position. Unfortunately they don’t understand the lack of authority stems from the lack of integrity.

Cavett Roberts said: “If my people understand me, I’ll get their attention. If my people trust me, I’ll get their action.” For a leader to have the authority to lead, he needs more than the title or the position. He has to earn the trust of his followers.

(II) Boosts influence – Will Rogers said, “People’s minds are changed through observation and not argument.” People do what people see. When followers recognize a leader to be a man of integrity they begin to place more confidence in him thereby giving him the privilege of influencing their lives.

The opposite is also true. In May 1988 when Jimmy Swaggart confessed to have sinned against the Lord, His Bible College then known as “Jimmy Swaggart Bible College” lost a high number of its students. The lesser the followers trust a leader sooner he will lose his position of influence.

(III) Builds reputation – Two people were walking around a cemetery when they came upon a tombstone which caught their attention. The inscription said, “Here lays John Smith, a politician and an honest man.” “Good heavens!” said one of them to the other. “Isn’t it awful that they had to put two people in the same grave?”

Most leaders confuse reputation with self image. Self image is who people think we are. Reputation is who we really are. Unfortunately some leaders work hard on their images than on their integrity. When we work on integrity it results in solid reputation and makes people want to follow our leadership.

(IV) Facilitates high standards – The standards a leader set can be high or low. A simple example would be a punctual leader. He sets a high standard for his followers to follow while a late leader sets a lower standard. It should be noted that standards are not rules that leaders can force on their followers. They are principles that leaders inspire them to practice.

(V) Escorts credibility – Credibility is the conviction in followers that their leader means what he says. This becomes the leader’s credibility.

Implications: “Our Daily Bread” shares the story of a gigantic tree supposedly brought down by a violent storm. upon closer examination however it was found that the tree was rotten at the core because thousands of tiny insects had eaten away at its heart. The weakness of that tree was not brought on by the sudden storm; it began the very moment the first insect nested within its bark.

As leaders we must build our Character in the early stages of our life along the three avenues called love, faith and purity. We must take time to address the flaws in each one of these areas as early as possible. If we pay attention to the rise and fall of great leaders recorded in history, it becomes obvious these leaders like the gigantic tree in our story continued to grow but failed to address their character flaws in the earliest possible time. Remember, the higher you go, greater the pain if you fall.

3. A model ministry

So far we learned how to silence criticism by leading a model life. Now let us also find out how to minister in a way that people shall listen. Sometimes we hear people say, “He’s a great saint, but he does not prepare his sermons too well.” People should not have the opportunity to tell the same about us. In this section of the epistle we find six features of a model ministry.

(A) Devotion to public ministry

“prosecho” is the Greek word used here in place of “devote”. It means “give heed or attendance to” which implies preparation in advance. The first key to effective ministry is preparing one’s self adequately before going before the people with his message. (For more on preparation: See why preparation is important for a preacher?)

St. Paul encourages Timothy to devote himself to public reading of scripture, to teaching and to preaching, (1 Timothy 4:13). In the days of Paul, the public reading of scripture was more important than today because books were rare and expensive while the majority of the people were illiterate. The knowledge of God was gained through these public readings.

Implications: Today, public reading of scripture may not be as necessary as it was used to be. But a major implication to draw from this would be all aspects of our preaching and teaching ministries must be Bible based.

(B) Exercising the gift

St. Paul’s third statement about the model ministry deals with Timothy’s “gift” (1 Timothy 4:14). The Bible teaches we all receive particular gifts from God, (1 Corinthians 12:1-27). One of the greatest responsibilities of the Christian leader is to find out what those gifts are and to use them diligently. One of the best ways that potential leaders could discover their gifts is through others, as others can see our gifts clearly than we do sometimes.

Implications: This verse implies four common pitfalls in leadership.

(I) Amateur leaders must take time to discover their ministerial gifts without imitating someone else’s gift. Imitating often fails the potential leader and causes frustration.

(II) We as leaders must not neglect our gifts in order to fit into our busy schedules. Because negligence of a gift always ends up with the loss of that gift. Gifts are like fire that goes out unless fanned constantly, (…fan into flame the gift of God…) Gifts also, unless the leader uses them frequently will die.

(III) We although are leaders ourselves not capable of doing everything. (For example a person might be a good leader but a poor administrator.) Therefore we are responsible for recognizing the gifts of our followers and delegating them accordingly.

(C) Diligence in ministry

St. Paul’s third statement about model ministry deals with “diligence” (1 Timothy 4:15a). Now laziness is a common problem with leaders who sign up for full time Christian ministry. Some times when we hear a sermon we can discern without much effort that the minister is not well prepared. He may be rambling, or his sermon may lack solid content.

Implications: Whatever we do, we must do it to the best of our ability. If we allow lethargy to settle in, very soon we will begin to feel satisfied with a job not well done. A smart approach to ministerial diligence and time management is, to maintain a check list (How did I preach today? Was I properly prepared?) As well as write down the tasks accomplished in a given day. This helps us realize how well we managed our time and measure our degree of diligence.

(D) Absorption in ministry

St. Paul’s fourth statement regarding the model ministry deals with “absorption”, (1 Timothy 4:15b). Paul told Timothy: “Give yourself wholly to them”. The impression here is that the Christian leader must minister out of passion not obligation.

Preachers who preach the expounded truth in a mechanical manner serve as a fine example here. The content is good. Evidently they prepared well ahead of time. But the delivery lacks fire and excitement. The listeners are hardly moved because he himself was not moved in the first place. This applies not just to the act of preaching but all other aspects of ministry.

Implications: Sometimes even the seasoned Christian leaders confuse Passion with personality traits such as vibrancy, bounciness and charisma. It should be noted that most of the mighty leaders we meet in Christendom actually did not possess a fiery personality. We read that William J. Seymour, the son of a slave was blind in his left eye and had scars all over his face, due an encounter with Smallpox. Yet he served God passionately and became the leader of the Azusa Street Revival in 1906-1915. W.E. Sangster gives four principles for such a passion filled ministry.

(I) Prayer – Passion emerges from our relationship with God. Therefore every act of ministry must be bathed in prayer. Someone said in his preparation for the pulpit he “read himself full” and “thought himself clear” and also “prayed himself hot”.

(II) Believe – We must have firsthand experience of God’s power and a comprehension of the power in Christian ministry.

(III) Wonder over the gospel – “Familiarity breeds contempt”. We could become too familiar with the power of public ministry and become cold in spirit. The only way to maintain our sense of wonder in public ministry is to maintain this wonder in our personal lives through devotion to prayer and word.

(IV) The leading of the Holy Spirit – We cannot continue to lead unless we are sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, (Acts 16:6; 16:7; 16:9-10).

(E) Progressive ministry

St. Paul’s fourth statement regarding the model ministry deals with “Progress” which is a byproduct of diligence and absorption, (1 Timothy 4:15c). The Christian leader who is diligent and absorbed by ministry seeks to sharpen his skills and increase his knowledge, because diligence and absorption deepens his commitment and widens the vision.

Implications: Someone said “Stop learning today and you will stop teaching tomorrow.” We pick up in ministry through academic achievements, experience, observation, as well as being receptive to input from people around us. But we should be careful not to confuse progress with perfectionism, where a person drives himself to achieve, never happy with himself or his performance. Perfectionism comes out of the inner inadequacy that drives us. Progress comes from our desire to please God.

(F) Watchful perseverance

Watchful perseverance is the final quality of a model ministry and the summary of everything we discussed above, (1 Timothy 4:16). In this verse Paul exhorts Timothy one last time to live an exemplary life and lead a model ministry at the same time. He cannot preach the right doctrine and yet settle for a cheap lifestyle or vice versa. This is more than a ministerial obligation for Timothy but a fact essential for Timothy’s own salvation as well as that of his followers.

Implications: All Christians aspiring for leadership in God’s Kingdom must realize that being a leader isn’t a luxury. Leaders are accountable for the spiritual well being of the people God has placed in their care. He is to provide them with an example worthy of following because he will face much severe judgment than others, (James 3:1).

Conclusion

Not being respected is a common problem faced by many young leaders in the church today. The majority of these leaders attempt to overcome the situation through demonstrations of authority. This type of approach is only capable of adding more fuel to the fire of criticism against them and serving as yet another example of their immaturity and incompetence. Some leaders attempt to overcome the problem by a powerful public relations drive and chances are high this could lead to compromise. Then as the Bible says an exemplary life style is the only way through which we can become successful leaders.

Image: Lyne Robichaud

-Works cited-

1. Fernando, Ajith. “A Model Life.”Leadership lifestyle. 1985. Reprint. Singapore: Youth For Christ, 1988. 99-109. Print.

2. Fernando, Ajith. “A Model Ministry.”Leadership lifestyle. 1985. Reprint. Singapore: Youth For Christ, 1988. 109-121. Print.

3. Maxwell, John C.. “The Most Important Ingredient of Leadership: Integrity.”Developing the leader within you. Nashville, Tenn.: T. Nelson, 2001. 35-49. Print.

4. “Martin Luther King, Jr..” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 23 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.>.

5. “Adolf Hitler.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 24 Feb. 2014. Web. 25 Feb. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adolf_Hitler.>.

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