By Erin Bird, 

Following Jesus to Lead Others
Every other Tuesday, Riverwood’s Elder Team discusses a chapter from a great little book simply entitled Church Elders. This past week, we discussed chapter 7 which talked about the importance for an elder to continue to grow spiritually so that he can help those in his church family continue to grow spiritually.

But this got me thinking. Growing to be like Christ so you can help others grow in Christlikeness isn’t just an elder thing to do, it’s a Jesus-follower thing to do.

Because whether you realize it or not, people are watching you. The question is, where are you leading them?

I remember several years ago slowly crawling out of bed knowing another blanket of snow awaited me on my driveway. That particular year, Cedar Rapids was on pace to set a record for most snowfall in a season, and I was getting sick of clearing my driveway of 6 inches of snow every 4 to 7 days.

As I made my way downstairs, I was greeted with a cheerful boy-soprano call of “Daddy!” from the early bird of our family, my son Salem (who I think was about 4-years-old at the time). He was happily eating breakfast as I kissed him on the head. But his cheerfulness quickly turned to mourning when he saw me putting on my snow boots. “Daddy, I don’t want you to leave!”

I reassured him that I was just going outside to shovel snow (yet again). He immediately pushed his cereal bowl back and said, “I want to come too!”

In that moment, I realized Salem didn’t want to just be with me. He wanted to be like me. Because I could see it in more than his desire to shovel snow with me. I saw it in the way he tried to crack jokes, or watch football on TV, or sit next to me on the couch with his toy laptop while I worked on my Macbook. Whether I wanted to be or not, I was Salem’s hero when he was little. (Now that he’s 15 and taller than me, Salem no longer “looks up” to me; but he is still watching!)

Surfing in Sandals
We see something similar in Matthew 14. After feeding 5000 people with nothing but 5 loaves of bread and two fish, Jesus goes up on a hillside to pray while sending His disciples in a boat to the other side of the lake. In the middle of the night, a windstorm rises up, so Jesus comes walking on the water towards the boat. Needless to say, the disciples were seized with fear seeing a figure moving across the surface of the water in the middle of a storm.

Jesus calls out to them, telling them to calm down. After all, it’s just Him. But then Peter calls back, “If it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”

Stop and think about that for a second. Peter sees Jesus walking on water, and rather than freak out, or try to pull out his smartphone to snap a photo to post on the ‘Gram, he says, “If that’s really you, tell me to join you.”

What would possess Peter to say such a thing?

Ray Vander Laan says the goal of a Jewish disciple in the first century was not just to know what the rabbi knew, but to be just like the rabbi. If this is true, suddenly you understand why Peter would make such a ridiculous request. If Jesus, Peter’s rabbi, could walk on water, then Peter wanted to be just like his rabbi. So Peter jumps out of the boat when Jesus says “come.”

Follow Jesus in the 21st Century
If you are a follower of Jesus, you are a “disciple”, which means you are to not just know about Jesus, you are called to be like Him!

So what are you doing to be like your rabbi?

For me, I seek to get know Jesus better so I can live more like Him. I get to know Him more through the Scriptures, in prayer, in worship, through conversation with others, and more. Yet, I know I follow Jesus extremely imperfectly. Which made me a bit nervous when my 4-year-old son’s eyes were on me. But now, it isn’t just a 4-year-old watching me follow Jesus: it’s my college age daughters, and my teenage sons, and my neighbors, and my church family.

Whether you realize it or not, someone has their eyes on you as well. It might be your own kids, a co-worker who is curious about your faith, a neighbor who finds your church attendance a little bit odd, a friend who has spiritual questions, a family member who is still trying to figure out this Jesus thing you’ve aligned yourself with, or simply a friend in Growth Group. This is why each Sunday at our Worship Gatherings and each Thursday in these Notes I encourage you to follow Jesus and make His Gospel the center of your life and identity. Because the more you get to know Him, the more you will be like Him. And the more you love like Jesus loved and live like Jesus lived, the more capable you will be to lead others to follow the One you are already following.