Along with teaching and coaching, a third way that Jesus developed people was by modeling. A key passage that indicated Jesus’ intention to model is John 13:13-14, “You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right; for so I am. If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus expected His Disciples to live as He lived; to follow His model.
A model is a representation of an original. The writer to the Hebrews (1:3) says that Jesus was the exact representation of God. Since people are unique and with flaws, human models should never be replicated exactly. For this reason, followers of Jesus should be primarily committed to replicate His model and only secondarily seek to become like good human role models. Whenever we put too high of an expectation on some person, we have potentially set ourselves up for disappointment. To whom are you looking to be like?
Nevertheless, every leader is being watched and emulated. This is perhaps most notable and scary in the way children become like their parents. During the formative years, teachers are role models as well. The major challenge is how to be a good role model. When you think of good role models, many qualities come to mind: friendly, humble, caring, gifted, talented, etc. A danger comes when a person attaches her or himself too closely to one role model. When we study the Bible or observe contemporary life, the healthiest situations are when leaders have multiple role models to whom they can look.
How does one implement this modeling aspect of developing people? The Navigators have a hallmark conviction taken from Mark 3:14, “and He appointed the twelve that they might be with Him…” A model must be seen and observed sufficiently for admiration, learning, and replication to happen. It was Howard Hendricks who said that you can influence at a distance, but you can only impact up close. Proximity is essential for modeling.
Jesus spent about three years almost full-time modeling His life before His disciples. Can modeling happen when we only are co-located with a leader periodically? That is a question I have wrestled with for years. We gather people for training, but that is not modeling. We visit people for a couple hours over coffee, but that is not modeling. If we understand Jesus’ intention to model as an essential means for developing leaders, we must find a way to spend longer times together. Just as disciple making cannot be mass-produced at an efficient pace, neither can modeling Christlikeness and the advance of the Gospel.
How are you seeking to model what God has built into your life? (see 1 Corinthians 11:1) How much do you read about, study, and meditate on the life and ministry of Jesus? Only thereafter, who are those people that have qualities that you want to replicate? When we value and practice learning from models, we can then live transparently before others as a worthy model.
For those who resonate with song, the song at this link by Phillips, Craig & Dean touches our affections about modeling: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdhSeA1hva4
Next blog: Developing Like Jesus Summary