“Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” (1 Cor. 11:1)

“Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me — put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9)

We did this, not because we do not have the right to such help, but in order to offer ourselves as a model for you to imitate. (2 Thess 3:9)

If you’ve spent any length of time with me, you’ve probably heard me mention the name Brent Gambrell. I’m sure most of my college friends hear that name and think he’s some strange imaginary friend or character that I’ve made up.

“Hey that reminds me of this one time Brent and I…”

“Brent always used to say…”

“When Brent and I were going to…”

Brent is a Christian speaker, youth evangelist, and director of a non-profit organization, A Door to Hope, that works to spread the Gospel in Haiti. Most importantly, Brent has been a mentor to me when I first began exploring the possibility of full-time ministry and Christian leadership. Other than my parents, Brent has probably been the biggest influence and role model in my life.

(Do me a favor, never watch any videos of Brent or listen to him speak, or else you'll realize all my funny jokes and best stories came from him...)

I met Brent at a summer camp our church hosted several years ago where he was the keynote speaker/pastor/talker guy/old-man-who-was-telling-funny-stories, or whatever you call him.

I connected with him almost instantly, and everything he preached was exactly what I needed to hear in my life. Oddly enough, a few year later I had the opportunity to intern for him as a ministry assistant and to travel with him whenever he would speak at churches, youth camps, and conferences.

That summer was, in one word: a blast.

Wait, I guess that’s two words...

Anyway, it was so much fun and so new to me. I spent a whole summer sleeping on a couch in Nashville, in airports traveling to new cities, in the back of a pickup truck romping the mountain roads of Haiti, all while following Brent around and learning ministry along the way.

I did all the great intern-y things like get coffee for Brent, carry his bags, make the slides for his sermons, dumpster dive for his keys and wallet when he accidentally threw them away… It was great.

But what I really appreciated about Brent was the opportunity to watch him live his life off-stage. To observe how he loves his employees like family; how he leads his own personal devotion to Christ; how he disciples and mentors everyone around him.

I can say as someone who lived with Brent almost every day for a whole summer, that he is absolutely the same person behind-the-scenes as he is on-stage.

I, like countless others who’ve crossed paths with Brent, had the opportunity to learn from his example – and the example he set was one of following Jesus Christ.  

Setting an Example

Paul told the churches in Corinth, Philippi, and Thessalonica to imitate his example. Like copycat.

I laugh because if you’ve ever listened to me speak or preach, I borrow a lot of what I learned from Brent over the years. Even my teaching style is modeled after what I learned from him. I’ve adapted over time, because I’m very different from Brent, but his influence in my life is obvious.

Similarly, I smile when I think about the influence I’ve been able to have as an RA at Liberty. I’ve watched freshmen students who start to talk the way I do, or repeat lessons they’ve heard me teach. They follow the example that was given to them. Copycat.

I wonder if that example is one I want them to follow. Am I following the example of Christ? I’m I encouraging them to become better disciples of Justin, or better disciples of Jesus? 

In your life, you have others who are looking to the example you set. Like a spiritual big brother or sister, you and I are the role models to our younger siblings.

Who are they following? Who are you following? Are you, like Paul, setting an example in the way that encourages others to follow Christ?

Surround yourself with people you can learn from, and then look for others you can teach. That’s discipleship in a nutshell. Follow the example of Jesus, and teach others to follow the example of Jesus.

As a Christian leader, the two most important lessons you can teach others are:

1.     How much YOU need Jesus

2.     How much THEY need Jesus

What example are you setting?

Who's example are you following?