“For good or ill, a congregation takes on its lead pastor’s personality after about five years.”
You can add that sentence to the long list of things I can’t remember who said, but heard a lot and can’t forget it.
It’s a sobering reality for those in lead pastor roles for congregations: those under the influence of our leadership behaviors will become like us.
Let me really sharpen the point on this: they don’t become who we teach them to be; they become who WE are.
The Apostle Paul wasn’t afraid of this truth. He writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:14-15…
14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.2 Timothy 3:14-15
New International Version
“But as for you…” I’m not sure the Holy Spirit could have inspired Paul to write a more contrasting transition. Unlike the false teachers in the congregation(s) of Ephesus threatening the fruit of the Gospel, Timothy was of a different sort.
Timothy not only knew the truth of the Scriptures, he was persuaded of the certainty and validity of them. Timothy didn’t just believe the Scriptures from an academic point of view. No, it had changed him. Shaped him. Forged him.
Timothy was a product of the reality of the power of God’s word.
Moreover, he first learned of the truth from those who had been transformed by it. Timothy’s grandmother (Lois) and his mother (Eunice) along with Paul himself raised Timothy in the faith.
The Scriptures do not form wisdom for the mere purpose of intellectual ascent. No, indeed! The sacred writings of Scripture were given for revealing the Father’s purpose for salvation of humanity through Jesus.
It’s not that the Scriptures themselves provide salvation; instead, they reveal them. Scripture demonstrates a God who loves us more than we can imagine. Moreover, it teaches us how to receive the gift of life.
But how are we to learn without someone teaching us (Romans 10:14-15)?
This passage of 2 Timothy contains an incredible statement about Scriptures. But I think it’s important to see what’s hiding in its shadow: the humanity of the people in Timothy’s life who taught him.
And again, Timothy wasn’t taught with a type of “do as I say and not as I do.” Not at all. Timothy saw the power of the Scriptures lived out in those teaching him.
Can those we teach say the same of us?
Am I content with my living out my faith that in a few more years, my congregation will take on who I am?
Are you content with those influenced by you becoming like you?
It’s a sobering and honoring reminder: the Lord has put us in people’s lives to influence them for Him. We are to teach them the Scriptures not only formally, but with the proof of our lives.
Think through someone who’s watching your walk with the Lord. Are they witnessing the validity of what you teach with your words? Are they seeing the ongoing grace of the Lord in your life?
I pray the Lord would use you today to teach the Scriptures, both with your words and your life.