The Power of Modeling

Fractured Face

“Example is not the main thing in influencing others. It is the only thing.” – Albert Schweitzer

As our good friend, Bobby Clinton so succinctly puts it in his commentary on the Gospel of John:
“Leaders can most powerfully influence by modeling godly lives, the sufficiency and sovereignty of God at all times, and gifted power.”

1. A leader models what he/she wants followers to embrace.
2. A leader should proactively use modeling to influence followers.
3. Servant leadership values are best seen through modeling.

The fact is that we reproduce what we are. The best materials, processes, or presentations have little efficacy if they are not representative of a life that speaks with consistency. Life transformation is not really accomplished through the transference of information. It occurs through in the proximity of authentic relationships.

That’s why throughout CRM we value coaching, mentoring, and doing life together in some form of community as our primary methodology in the development of leadership for the kingdom. It is one of our values that distinguishes us from formal educational settings.

However, I confess that I have two ongoing struggles with this truth.

First, is my own inadequacy and unworthiness to be a participant with the Spirit of God in such a divine process. The older I grow, the more I see things in my own life that cause me to groan. There is so much that I don’t want to reproduce. I cringe to think that my sinfulness, which inhabits every part of my fallen personality, is what others would emulate. Ugh.

Secondly, I sometimes struggle with the intentionality of modeling. If we are honest, I think it is a challenge to say, “Imitate me as I have imitated Christ” without promoting ourselves in an unhealthy way that lacks humility. It can be an ego trip camouflaged by a spiritual veneer. Modeling becomes unhealthy when it is subverted to be more about me getting strokes and being the center of attention verses having the focus on those I am called to serve and the One for whose presence I am but a conduit.

Despite these reservations, I still want my life to exemplify the power of this biblical reality. I find that I do this best informally. Jesus called the 12 “…that they might be with him.” I usually get my best traction in such a process while traveling, over a cup of coffee, in the midst of some mutual activity or recreation, or sharing an adventure or memorable experience. I’m not the best coach, as some are, over the phone or in a structured environment. Knowing ourselves, knowing in what contexts we do this best, and being consciously committed to such a priority are keys to modeling being an effective ministry methodology.

I like how Bobby Clinton paraphrases Hebrews 13:7. My aspiration is to be, in some small measure, the type of leader to whom others can look and to live a life worthy of their imitation.

“Remember your former leaders. Think back on how they lived and ministered. Imitate those excellent qualities you see in their lives. For Jesus Christ is the same today, as He was in the past and as He will be in the future. What He did for them He will do for you to inspire and enable your leadership.”

2 Responses to “The Power of Modeling”

  1. Keith Says:

    Sam, I always enjoy when we can spend time together. You’ve been a good model for so many traits I admire about you. I only wish we had more time together. But then I guess I’d see your “darker” side you mentioned… and pop my “hero” bubble of you. : – )

    I’ve been challenged this year about who I am with constently enough to be a model and mentor for. As you know I do a lot of travel and training. Coaching calls every two weeks have extending relationships with several leaders. However, there’s nothing like being around people day-to-day, rubbing shoulders and hanging out. Modeling comes through the times when a leader isn’t “on”, as much as when he/she is doing their thing as a leader.

    I find I have to be more intentional about actively seeking our these relationships as I get older and busier. Is that true for you or just me?


  2. Sam Says:

    Keith: Thanks for your kind words.

    I appreciate, and have always appreciated, time with you. I regret that the Pacific ocean separates us because being able to hang out more often with you would be a privilege.

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