Set the Believers Example in Conduct

Featuring Bob Kauflin Posted on April 27, 2010


Paul knew that a leader's spiritual life is never a private matter. Timothy was a leader, and people were watching him, studying him, and learning from what they observed. So Paul wisely charged him: “Set . . . an example.” 

People are watching us as well. Not just on Sunday morning, but throughout the week. If we lead God's people in worship, we can't exempt ourselves from this biblical standard. Paul's charge to Timothy applies to us, too; set an example. 

In my experience, this is rarely the emphasis among worship leaders. Godly example is too often assumed or ignored, while public gifting is highlighted and exalted. But Paul can't imagine a leader whose personal life doesn't commend his message.

This command to be an example touches every area of our lives. Let's consider the categories Paul brings to Timothy's attention. 

In Speech 

Every time we open our mouths, we're leading others. Not just when we're in front of people, but all the time. We're counseling them. Communicating what's important and what's not. Letting others know whose words matter more—ours or God's. 

Of course, what we say in front of the congregation is important. But the words we use on blog posts, on church web sites, in articles, and in private conversations are equally as important. As a leader, every word we say has an increased potential to either confirm our example of genuine worship or take away from it. If our words are foolish, sensual, or sinful during the week, it's hard for people to take us seriously when our mouths are suddenly filled with God's praise on Sunday morning.

James gives us a sober warning: 

But no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse people who are made in the likeness of God. From the same mouth come blessing andcursing. My brothers, these things ought not to be so. (James 3:8–10) 

He's right. “These things ought not to be so.” But from the little I've heard and read, we seem increasingly comfortable with conversations that contain profanity and sexual innuendo. I've read blog posts by worship leaders that are slanderous and provocative. It could be an attempt to sound cool and relevant. Or it could be that we're just being foolish.

God wants our speech to be sound, gracious, truthful, and edifying,  no matter where we are or whom we're with. That includes the way we speak to our spouse, our children, our team, our pastor, and anyone else we happen to be talking to.

That doesn't mean there's no place for appropriate humor or informal conversation. It does mean taking responsibility for our words, written or spoken, and understanding that they influence others to fear God or ignore him. Jesus said we'll be held accountable for “every careless word” we say (Matthew 12:36). That's why he wants us to set an example for others in our speech.


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