While I am dealing with the subject of influence, both positive and negative, I am reminded of our tendency to emulate those we respect. This may not be a harmful thing, but in an extreme form, it can be dangerous.
I plan to use this statement on Sunday:
You don’t become a disciple by emulating one of the disciples. You become a disciple by emulating Christ.
When we hear about or are exposed to a very successful individual, we wish to be like them. This is true with spiritual examples as well.
There are some Bible verses that may throw us. In 1 Corinthians 4:16, Paul writes, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” (TNIV) And in 1 Corinthians 11:1 “You must follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ.” (CEV) Sounds as though Paul is encouraging what I am discouraging. I don’t think so. I think a more concise way of making this statement may be, “I am trying hard to be like Christ, I want you to try just as hard as I do to be like Him.”
I have been in conversations with individuals who have read about incredible people of God. Their lives were full of awesome experiences with God – God used them to to do miracles. These folks who were reading their stories got the idea that, if they could simply copy the behaviors and lifestyles of these spiritual heroes, they too could do the miracles. And it didn’t work out that way. I think the mistake was trying to be like the other person, rather than trying to find out what God wanted for them as an individual.
This happens in churches all the time. A successful church gets some press for doing great ministry. A successful pastor writes a book on how to build a growing church. Other pastors read it or hear about and set out to duplicate it in his location. And it does not work.
We are individuals. We are called by God to do something unique for Him. Rather than trying to produce a carbon copy of another person or church or ministry, we should be ourselves, be exactly what God made us to be.
Getting inspiration from others is great. We need teachers and coaches and mentors. But we need to have as our primary influence, Jesus Christ.
If you want to emulate someone, make it Jesus. And that is precisely the problem – other people are much easier to copy than He is!