1 Cor. 11:1
Imitate me, just as I imitate Christ.
This short verse gives us critical instruction that we may overlook if we are not careful. God places leaders in the Church to teach us and build us. Those who are more mature in the Lord than we have precious knowledge and wisdom to impart, and the hungry Christian will seek that out. This is a wonderful thing, but a problem can arise when our perspective of following the leaders in the Church goes askew. We must remember that we ultimately are not following people, we are following Jesus. And we only seek guidance from those who are emulating Christ.
When Paul tells the church in Corinth to follow him, he inserts a necessary qualifier. He makes sure to tell them to follow him only as far as his behavior imitates that of Jesus. Remember, Paul was a great teacher but an imperfect man. He even makes it clear that he struggles with doing what is right and at times makes mistakes [Rom. 7:15-20]. He surely is not asking believers to follow the same sinful tendencies that ensnare him. No, he is instructing believers to imitate what is Christ-like in him, the good spiritual fruit that he produces. He is telling believers to take what they see in him and place it in submission to the Spirit, to test it before imitating it.
When we decide to seek counsel from a person for the sake of growing in the Spirit, we must be sure that the person we allow to influence us is actually following the teachings of Jesus. When you hear a new teaching, test it. Go into the word and make sure it is sound. There are false prophets in this world seeking to deceive us, and we cannot be ignorant of that fact [Matt. 24:11]. Follow a leader not because his speech is polished, his words are soft, and he never challenges you spiritually. Follow a leader because he speaks the truth, no matter how it looks, sounds or feels. Father, give us the discernment necessary to test the teachings we hear and the leaders we follow, placing all in submission to you so that we will not be led astray.