Leadership is as important in the Church as it is in business. We need leaders and we need followers. All throughout my life, I have been blessed with great leaders in church. From my early childhood children’s pastors who taught me the foundations of faith, to my junior high teachers who helped me understand the doctrines of the church, to my high school teachers who helped me learn to pray and to memorize Scripture, to my pastors that have kept me grounded in God’s Word. I learned these things from them, but I also watched their lives. They were consistent in living what they professed. That’s what leadership is truly about.
In almost all of those leaders, I remember hearing them repeat 1 Corinthians 11:1 to me and to others. It says, “I want you to pattern your lives after me, just as I pattern mine after Christ” (TPT). The King James I grew up on said, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” As a kid, I remember hearing that as an instruction to look at their lives as a pattern for mine as long as they were living for Christ. It was the openness and honesty that is required of leadership. If they’re not following Christ, it was time to learn from their mistakes and to quit patterning my life after them. It’s always important to remember that church leaders are human just like ourselves. They have the same propensities to sin, and do sin. Leadership isn’t about being perfect, it’s about being real and open. What do they do when they sin? How do they respond to defeat? How do they deal with things when they’re under life’s pressures?
As you go through similar things in your life, look to the lives of the leaders God has placed around you. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember your leaders who taught you the word of God. Think of all the good that has come from their lives, and follow the example of their faith” (NLT). God has given the Church leaders so we can follow their examples. We are also called to be leaders ourselves. People are watching your life to see your example of faith just as you watch the lives of others. They may never tell you, but they are. It’s important that we keep our eyes on Jesus and not on a person only. He is our ultimate leader that should guide and direct how we live. I’d like to change a famous quote just a little: Lead (preach) at all times. Use words when necessary. Your actions will speak louder than your words ever will. Follow someone whose life lives what they preach, and be a person who does the same.
When you read the New Testament, you find that it talks a lot about how we should live. It describes in detail how your life and actions should be different once you accept Christ into your heart. It’s very clear that we are not saved by those actions, but they should be the fruit of a life that has been changed from the inside out. In other words, our actions should line up with what we profess to believe. The Bible is very clear that there should be a distinction between how we live, act and speak as Christians and those who aren’t.
Just like an apple tree can’t produce oranges, our lives should produce the fruit of the Spirit instead of the fruits of the flesh. You’ve heard the saying that actions speak louder than words. Are your actions confessing Jesus louder than your words? Our faith should be seen through our actions. I love the quote, “Preach at all times. Use words when necessary.” It reminds me that my actions matter because that’s what other people see. Our goal should be that the fruit of our actions points people to Jesus.
Here are some Bible verses on the importance of our actions.
1. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Matthew 7:20 NLT
2. My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action.
1 John 3:18 GNT
3. So now it’s clear that a person is seen as righteous in God’s eyes not merely by faith alone, but by his works.
James (Jacob) 2:24 TPT
4. Oh, that my actions would consistently reflect your decrees!
Psalms 119:5 NLT
5. For if you live according to your human nature, you are going to die; but if by the Spirit you put to death your sinful actions, you will live.
How many times have you heard the phrase, “Actions speak louder than words”? I can’t remember the first time I heard it, but I’m sure it was my parents after I’d apologized for something I’d done multiple times. They knew that saying, “I’m sorry” was different than being sorry. There was no power in my words if there was no will in my spirit. Without being sorry, they were merely empty words. There was no guarantee that I wouldn’t do it again. My parents wanted to be able to trust my words, but until they could, they watched my actions.
When I was a sales manager, I had to forecast my projections each week to my boss. I would sit on a call as we went from store to store with each manager saying what their store would do. The longer the call went on, the higher the numbers went. Each store would give a bigger number so as not to be outdone. When it came to me, I would always break the trend and give a reasonable number. I took flack for it on the call each week, but I felt it was better to be able to back up my words.
Some people would rather look good now by what they say and sacrifice their reputation long term by their actions. That’s not God’s way. I John 3:18 says, “Our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love which shows itself in action. (GNB)” It’s easy to say we love others because that’s the right thing to say. It’s completely different to sacrifice what you want for what someone else wants. That’s what love does. It’s choice after choice and action after action that shows whether or not we truly love others.
So many times we are like the managers on those calls where we say the right thing or what we think others want to hear, but we rarely back it up. We use the right jargon and impress people with what we say, but God is looking for more than words. He’s looking at our heart. He’s watching what we do. It’s not just God who is doing that, others are too. They’re basing their idea of Christianity off of the way you and I live each day. They’re listening to our words and watching our actions and we already know which of those is louder.
One of my favorite quotes of all time came from St. Francis of Asisi. He said, “Preach at all times. Use words whenever necessary.” He understood that our lives preach what we believe more than our words ever will. What we do matters more than what we say. We don’t need to sacrifice our reputation or message for temporary acceptance. Live a lifestyle of love and let your actions do the talking for you. That’s the message of i John 3:18.