In a scene out of the 2004 movie, “The Alamo,” based upon the 1836 standoff between a group of Texan and Mexican men in San Antonio, Texas, “the Alamo is under attack and being defended by a motley force of volunteer militia under the command of Colonel William Travis. When Travis orders his men to pick up an un-detonated enemy cannonball to be reused, nobody obeys the command. ‘You’ll be pickin’ that up yourself,’ challenges one of the men.
“Colonel Travis does not hesitate. He steps forward, cuts the burning fuse from the cannonball, and carries it to his munitions captain himself, while the men stare at one another in disbelief. ‘Well, I’ll be,’ one says.”
This is a picture of the next two biblical leadership principles we derive from the Pastoral Epistles. Leaders are to:
Run hard after godliness. And…
Show others how to live through your example—which also will draw others to Christ.
To be godly is not only to be like the God-man, Jesus Christ, it is also “to be devoted to God” with a “devotion-in-action.” It is true that “there is great gain in godliness with contentment” (1 Tim. 6:6). Yet, godliness is not easy, which is why one must “train…for godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). It often demands self-sacrificial love (Eph. 5:25), suffering (Phil. 2:5-8), not fighting back when that would be the natural thing to do (1 Pt. 2:23), forgiving when everything about the situation would lead in the opposite direction (Luke 23:34; Eph. 4:32). When we remember that leaders are to be a model for how to follow Christ (Heb. 13:7) and this would mean pursuing hard after holiness (Heb. 12:14)—which would include godliness—then we come to see that in many ways for a person to take on a leadership position means they are not only putting themselves in harm’s way (after all leaders are “shot at” far more than non-leaders), but they are placing themselves in situations where they are willing to pick up the cannonballs when no one else will—that is to do that which can be brave, hard, courageous, and godly—all to the benefit of those watch and to God’s glory.
The sixth and seventh principles help us not only focus in on that we should be an example (principle seven), but what that example involves (principle six). They are best dealt with, then, together.
These Truths Supported From The Pastoral Epistles
Paul teaches young Timothy that “godliness is of value in every way, as it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8) and so leaders are not only to work hard to the end of helping others come to know Christ and thus live such valuable and godly lives (1 Tim. 4:10), but are to live out such godliness themselves (1 Tim. 4:15)—a model which will have great impact on how those following them respond to Christ (1 Tim. 4:16). This means working hard to please our Master and Savior (2 Tim. 2:3-7), diligence in seeking to present one’s self to God as an approved workman, as one who rightly handles the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15), hot pursuit of the things pleasing to God and running away from those things that displease him (2 Tim. 2:19-22)—and even if this means great hardship, for the godly man also knows it brings great reward (2 Tim. 4:6-8)!
Likewise, Paul instructed the young leader, Titus, that leaders are to be “lover[s] of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined” (Titus 1:8). In other words, run hard after godliness.
These Truths Supported From The Rest Of The Bible
It was the Apostle Paul who wrote to the Corinthians: “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1). The author of Hebrews reminded followers of Jesus that they were to “imitate…[the] faith” of their leaders (Heb. 13:7), which necessitates that leaders live a life worthy of modeling. Negatively, one of the problems of Old Testament Israel was that their ungodly leaders led the people astray (Jeremiah 23:9-40; Ezek. 34:1-10). And, of course, the ultimate example is Jesus Christ, the ideal and model person (cf. Heb. 2:5-8), who has shown us how to humble himself, to love, and to give sacrificially for the benefit of others (Philippians 2:5-11).
Practical Application Of These Truths
If we are leaders, here are just a few steps to take so we can start running hard after godliness.
1. We must start by holding the conviction that who we are is more important than what we know or what skills we have. This does not mean knowledge and skills are unimportant. It does mean that our relationship with God and the resultant godliness will shape our knowledge, skills, and our leadership to be the most fruitful. This is why most of the qualifications for eldership in the Pastoral Epistles focus much more on character than knowledge or skills (1 Tim. 3:1-7; Titus 1:5-9). It is also why A. W. Tozer wrote the following in Worship: The Missing Jewel:
You should never have to be a different man or get a new voice and a new sense of solemnity when you enter the pulpit[, classroom, or counseling office]. You should be able to enter [it] with the same spirit & the same sense of reverence that you had just before when you were talking to someone about the common affairs of life…. Woe be to the church when the [leader] comes up to the pulpit[, classroom, or counseling office…! He must come down to [those places] always. Wesley, they said, habitually dwelt with God but came down at times to speak to the people. So should it be with all of us.
2. Pray Hebrews 13:20-21, which is a wonderful model to guide us in praying for godliness: “Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
3. Make sure you allow other people to speak into your life with gospel encouragement and accountability. Hebrews 3:12-13 reminds us of this: “Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”
4. Stay much in God’s Word, not only as a student and teacher (2 Tim. 2:15), but also as a doer of the Word (James 1:22-25). This is important since God uses his Word, the core of which is the gospel, in such a mighty way to strengthen and sanctify us (John 17:17; Rom. 16:25). Remember that godliness takes discipline (cf. 1 Tim. 4:7; Heb. 5:14).
5. We must remember there will be times in the middle of conflict that people wrongly perceive a lack of positive example in the leader. In these times it is very important he/she look to Christ for true identity. If this does not happen, the leader can become too paralyzed to act.
6. One of the ways we can stay in on track as a godly example for others is to ask: “What does it feel like to be led by me?” Have close friends and your gospel-accountability-encouragement-partners also answer that question.