When in any form of Christian ministry, every leader has a responsibility not only to God, but also to the people. As leaders, we are called to serve God with our whole hearts, and in doing so, serve God’s people to the best of our ability.
Leadership is not only about leading people, but also much of our effectiveness as leaders relies on our ability to “Practice what we preach”. People will look to you as leaders, to set an example that they can follow, and that they can successfully apply to their own lives. Therefore, we have a responsibility not only to serve, but also to set an example.
1 Timothy 4:12 talks about setting an example in our leadership.
Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you teach, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.
1 Timothy 4:12
Paul’s instructions to Timothy were clear and simple: set an example in all that you do. This is what God is calling us to do as youth leaders. I know in my own church what makes someone an effective leader, is his or her ability to lead by example. The following teaching is all about leadership, and addresses five key areas that we need to set an example in.
PART ONE: The mouth
The mouth is a very important instrument. It can be used to tear down or build up. It can ruin life-long relationships, or it can build them up. You can change the whole course of your life by the things you say.
Proverbs 18:21 in the NIV says, The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit. There are lots of places in the Bible where it talks about the need to control our words. Why then are they so important? Why is so much importance placed on our words?
James 1:26 says, If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are just fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.2Okay, I think we’re getting a message here. James is telling us to control our tongues. Why do we need to? Why is it so important?
Quite often, my mouth gets me into a fair bit of trouble. I am talkative, loud, bold, and often opinionated. This is often a lethal combination. I sometimes say things, and then afterwards I wished that I hadn’t said them. Has this ever happened to you? You say something, and regret it later? Or do you say something that even surprises you? I have. I often used to ask God why I couldn’t control my mouth. Why was I having so much trouble controlling the words that were coming out of my mouth?
When preparing for teaching this bible study at my own church, I found a passage in Matthew 12:33-37.
Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognised by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored in him. But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgement for every careless word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned. (NIV)
Wow! What a powerful statement that is! Why can’t we control our mouths? Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks! If we are not dealing with the deeper root of the issue, then it will never be resolved. Wrong words indicate deeper issues that you may not even be aware of.
For example, if you really dislike somebody, and that’s all you think about. You think about it, meditate on that person’s faults and what they did wrong. If that’s all you’re thinking about all the time, eventually it’s going to get so bad that you can’t hold it in any longer. The result may be an explosion. Like a volcano – if enough pressure builds up in it, it will explode. You can’t hide what’s in your heart; it will eventually show itself through your actions or words.
In James 3:1-8, it talks about the power of the tongue. I really encourage you to read this passage, for we don’t have time to look at it in detail. Our words are powerful, but if they are not brought under control, they are full of deadly poison (James 3:8). It says that no man can tame the tongue (James 3:7-8). Only God has the ability to work such a miracle.
You have no idea how many times I have begged God to help me with my mouth. I now realise that the way to deal with my mouth is to ask God if there are any deeper issues that I may not be dealing with. These issues may be the cause of my uncontrollable mouth. We need to get our mouths under control. It is one of the most important instruments that we have, and we need to bring it under God’s control, by asking Him to help us.
PART TWO: The life
Romans 12:1-2 says, “And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will accept. When you think of what he has done for you, is this too much to ask? 2 Don’t copy the behaviour and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will know what God wants you to do, and you will know how good and pleasing and perfect his will really is.”
We are not to let the world squeeze us into its mould. We were not made to be like other people. We are called to be different. We are not called to just follow along with the crowd, but we are called to stand apart, to stand out from the crowd. As Christians, God has made us different from everyone else. We are in the world to change it, not to let it change us.
We are called to be holy people. The word ‘holy’ explained in simple terms means to be set apart. To be set apart means to be made different from everything and everyone else. Just because we are in the world, that doesn’t mean we have to do everything it wants us to. You are meant to be different from others around you. Why would people want what you’ve got, if you’re just the same as them? What makes you stand out from the crowd is what God has given you through Jesus Christ. The only way others are going to notice that you are different, is if you begin to live the kind of live that Jesus wants you to live. This is how you change the world!
PART THREE: The love
Let’s talk about love. What is love? The difference between ‘WORD living’ and ‘WORLD living’ is the letter ‘L’. The difference between God’s love and the world’s love is that God’s love is unconditional, while the world’s version of love is not. It has conditions.
We are not called to love people based upon our own set of conditions. That would not be unconditional love. In John chapter 13, Jesus gives us a commandment. “34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”
The way we are to show unconditional love to others will show others how much Jesus reigns in our lives. If He is truly Lord of our lives, it will show through our actions. Do not think that love is merely a nice feeling you feel towards someone else; love is not a feeling, it is an action.
Loving others is not a request, it is a command. In this verse, God is commanding us to love others in the same way He has loved us. The Bible says in 1 Corinthians 13:1 that, “If I could speak in any language in heaven or on earth but didn’t love others, I would only be making meaningless noise like a loud gong or a clanging cymbal.”
If we are not using the love of God to bless others, then our Christian walk will be fruitless. It has been said that actions speak louder than words. People are more likely to notice the way you act, before they even listen to what you say. Many people are won to Christ because they see something in another person that stands out. It isn’t always what a person has said, but more likely the love of God the person displayed.
In 1 John 3:16-18 it says, “We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our Christian brothers and sisters. 17 But if anyone has enough money to live well and sees a brother or sister in need and refuses to help—how can God’s love be in that person?
18 Dear children, let us stop just saying we love each other; let us really show it by our actions.”
Another element of the love of God is that it is unselfish in its entirety. Jesus is the most unselfish person I have ever known. His first thought was always the needs of the other person. Many times when He was tired, the people would still crowd around Him, begging for Him to heal their sick. He may have spent the whole day ministering to people, and anyone in ministry knows that it is extremely tiring at times. Yet Jesus still ministered, putting the needs of others above His own needs. He put others first.
This is how God wants us to love others. But you don’t do this to such an extent that you never rest, and you end up getting sick because of it. There needs to be balance in every area of our lives, including this one.
If we don’t love like God is telling us to, how can His love really be in us?