The writer of the book of Hebrews says, “Remember your leaders who spoke the Word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life. Imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).
The writer takes for granted that God places in our lives individuals whose faith and lifestyles are worthy of imitation.
However, these people are not merely resources for us to use or ignore as we see fit. We are exhorted—commanded, even—to remember, consider and imitate them.
The Christian life was never meant to be lived in isolation from the church community. The Bible knows nothing of disciples who are in Christ and part of the global church but who are not part of a local, flesh-and-blood community of disciples. It knows nothing of a Christian who has no leaders, role models, or mentors.
The writer of Hebrews believes that godly leaders are somehow essential to our spiritual formation and faith development. We are not merely available to one another; we need each other.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the 20th century German theologian wrote in his book “Life Together”, “The Christian needs another Christian who speaks God’s Word to him. He needs him again and again when he becomes uncertain and discouraged, for by himself he cannot help himself without belying the truth. He needs his brother man as a bearer and proclaimer of the divine word of salvation.”
I need the encouragement of other disciples. I need friends who will point me again to the Jesus of grace.
When my conscience bears down on me, when my heart is faint or distracted, and when my hope grows dim, other believers can speak the Word of God to me again. In this way, I experience Christ in my brother.
I need the counsel of other disciples. When I am unsure of the calling of God on my life in this moment and this decision, I need others to lead me in the right direction.
That’s not to say that I have no wisdom of my own or that I am incapable of making my own decisions.
It is simply to recognize that Christ is present in my sister, and my spiritual formation will not be complete until I have learned to listen to her.
I need other disciples in my life in order to obey Jesus. “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning: that we ought to love one another” (1 John 3:11).
I cannot practice the command to love one another without another. If I have faith in Jesus but do not love his church, I am not being obedient to him.
We need each other. We need each other’s strength, wisdom and presence for our own growth and well-being.
So I invite you to ponder for a moment: Whom has God placed in your life to invest in you, mentor you, or encourage you?
Who have been your role-models? (Try to think of people you know personally, not celebrity pastors or Christian authors you’ve never met.) Thank God for these people! Consider their way of life, and imitate their faith.
Another question, perhaps even more important, is this: For whom might you become an example and in what ways?
You are not meant to be a consumer who absorbs encouragement, counsel, or love but never contributes any.
You are needed by the people in your life. They need for you to speak the Word of God to them, too.
Parker Bullard is the senior pastor at Poncha Springs Church of Christ.