“For this reason I have sent Timothy to you, who is my beloved and faithful son in the Lord, who will remind you of my ways in Christ, as I teach everywhere in every church.”—1 Corinthians 4:17 (NKJV)
Staff Sergeant Roundtree was a drill instructor I had in boot camp. I’ll never forget the lessons I learned from him. There were drill instructors who used fear and rank to drive, push, and threaten physical punishment. But that wasn’t Roundtree. When he gave orders, he modeled it first. He led from the front and we followed if we could keep up. He developed strength and identified skills in us we never knew we had.
Encouragement and strength were the tools he used to chisel us into combat trained Marines. He held a black belt in karate, was an expert marksman, and an elite infantryman, yet he modeled genuine faith in Jesus Christ—in or out of uniform—and encouraged everyone under his leadership to seek hard after God. His style of getting things done was one of the reasons I became a follower of Jesus.
This kind of leadership is different than you’d expect. In the New Testament, there’s a military leader that also breaks the clichéd mold. He was a Roman centurion, the leader and trainer of one hundred of the world’s most elite, disciplined, and feared soldiers in history.
This centurion wanted Jesus to come and heal his sick servant. He could have used his authority and resources to compel Jesus to do his bidding. But this is how he addressed Jesus, “I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you . . .” (Luke 7:7 NIV). Romans were known for brutality, not humility. Jesus commended this leader for a distinguishing kind of faith. This is the kind of faith that gets things done.
Paul taught Timothy to “follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1 NIV). Paul doesn’t brand himself with religious self-importance. He doesn’t wield his authority by driving Timothy from behind a desk. Paul positions himself shoulder-to-shoulder with Timothy and mentors through on-the-job training. Paul produced a faithful fidelity in Timothy that made Timothy dependable and send-able. Timothy would get the work of laying foundations of faith in the church at Corinth done. As Christians, that’s the kind of leaders you and I need to be, because how we serve Jesus impacts how others may or may not follow us to Heaven.