As I Imitate Christ
By Gary Sims
"As I Imitate Christ" is a study on Godly leadership through example; leadership of leaders; being a mentor; and being a leader according to God's design. It is a prayer and a desire to be everything Christ would have us become and to recognize that all things are possible when we choose to follow the example of Christ in our lives.
Effective and visionary leadership within any organization requires the talents and gifts of one or two individuals especially focused on the course that lies ahead and on their ability to guide and lead that organization through whatever obstacles or diversions they encounter. Effective leaders see clearly, listen intently, and guide wisely.
Christian organizations are not significantly different than non-Christian organizations in these aspects of leadership. Goals and objectives need to be clearly stated, pathways and agendas must be planned, and results must be measured. Christian leaders require vision, temperament, and clarity of purpose. They must be sensitive to a changing environment, critical of every action taken, and strictly focused on their stated tasks or objectives. Christian organizations need strong leaders if they are to successfully achieve their goals.
Where Christian organizations differ from other organizations is in their purpose. As Christians we do not need to define our purpose, as is necessary in most organizations. It has been defined for us. Every Christian is in the business of saving souls. "And Jesus came and said to them, 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:18-20a NRSV) Because of this, volumes of books on effective leadership within Christianity have been written.
It will not be the intent of "As I Imitate Christ" to provide additional leadership pointers to the few gifted individuals who find themselves in leadership positions in church communities. Instead, it is with the understanding that ALL Christians are called to lead people to Christ that these articles will be based. ALL Christians are leaders and ALL Christians must exhibit leadership qualities in every aspect of their lives. It is through this universal leadership campaign that Jesus created where the work of God's kingdom is done.
How can we all be leaders? How can "non-leader" personalities be transformed into effective leaders? It is very likely that most of us do not see ourselves as leaders and, instead, would rather find a nice, non-essential role in a back room cleaning dishes or fixing a door. We do not feel we have been gifted in leadership, evangelism, teaching, or any other spiritual gift that would resemble our concepts of an effective leader. We do not know the first steps of leadership. We do not know what to do or where to go and we certainly do not want to be responsible for saving another person's soul.
Christ was thinking of our reticent natures when, at the end of the Great Commission, He added the phrase "And remember, I am with you always to the end of the age." (Matt 28:20b NRSV) This is the key. Christ is with us, in us, and works through us. He has provided an endless number of examples in His ministry to follow, He has created myriad of saints as models of Christ-likeness, and He has filled us with His Spirit.
Living our lives in the image of Christ is not a far-flung objective that only a handful of saints throughout history have achieved. It is a destination for which we have all been created. In his letter to the Philippians, Paul says that "in (our) lives (we) must think and act like Christ Jesus. Christ himself was like God in everything." (Philippians 2:5-6 NCV)
But can we think and act like Jesus Christ? Are we truly called to imitate Christ in everything we do? Is this possible? What if we fail? What if we fall short? This cry is addressed later in the same letter to the Philippians when Paul says: "I do not mean that I am already as God wants me to be. I have not yet reached that goal, but I continue trying to reach it and to make it mine. Christ wants me to do that, which is the reason He made me His." (Philippians 3:12 NCV)
And in His making of our lives He has provided us with the tools for success. As we read the Gospels that outline the life of Jesus and His ministry we are continuously treated with the phrase, "the kingdom of heaven is like…" This phrase is our clue to sit up and take notice of what is to follow. With His opening comments in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus outlines a Christ-like life in the Beatitudes: "Blessed are those…" These verses become a beacon for Christ-like living; they are the "Manifest Destiny" of Christian discipleship.
When we consider leadership as an integral part of our Christian walk to destiny, when we look to Christ as the model for living a life of faith, and when we accept that bringing His light into a world filled with darkness is our created purpose, then we begin the pathway of imitating Christ with every step we take. When this occurs, the kingdom of heaven is revealed and the work of God is achieved.
Each month the articles for "As I Imitate Christ" will provide us further glimpses of the kingdom of heaven at work in the lives around us. There will be illustrations of a single Christ-like characteristic such as we have this month with Mark Muncher's "Winning Basketball," where he reminds us of the child-like attitude in which we all must approach Christ. "Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will never enter it." (Luke 18:17 NRSV)
Lucian Thompson, in his article entitled "Nothing Is Worth Having If You Can’t Give It Away," shares with us a wonderful glimpse of his father. In this brief anecdote we are shown that a humble, forgiving, and loving lifestyle, along with a few plates of beans and potatoes, will bring about more changes in people's lives then anything else. By simply giving from his heart, Tommy brought light into the lives he touched and, today, provides us all with an amazing model of Christian leadership to follow.
In addition to these types of articles, there will be teaching articles, poems, devotionals, study guides, and fictional short stories, all of which will remind us of our calling to become Christ-like in everything we do, and of how Christ intends for that to happen. "As I Imitate Christ" will be a journey of faith that will help us each attain the heavenly goal of bringing the light of Christ into every corner of the world.
Gary Sims is a husband, and father of two teens. He is a Lay Worship Leader and Teacher at First United Methodist Church, Albuquerque, NM. Gary writes a Lectionary-based daily devotional entitled "Reflections of the Spirit", which can be found at http://www.faithwriters.com/member-profile.php?id=2297
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