Christian, Be Careful Who Your Role Model Is

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In this episode, we’re talking about being careful who your role model is. In other words, who do you aspire to be? Who are the people that you look to as an example? Who is your hero?

The people we aspire to be like

When most people think of who they aspire to be like, or asked in their wildest dreams who they would want to trade places with for a day, they would say a famous athlete, a famous music artist, and popular celebrity, or even a popular Christian celebrity. These types of people are the most followed people in the world on social media 

They are the type of people we aspire to be like: we want to be rich like them, we want to be famous like them, we want to be as good-looking as them, etc. Maybe we want to have the same accomplishments or level of fame! If you’re in the church culture, you’re probably less likely to give these answers. Or if we do, we try to put some “Christian-ese” spin on it.

But even if we don’t consciously say we want to be like these people, when we consistently fill our minds paying attention to them and following them, we will inevitably start trying to be like them. You are being discipled and influenced by them, in one way or another.

We did a whole episode on how what you read, watch, and listen to matters. It changes you. 

The people whose content you consume change and affect you. 

The Danger in Admiration

The problem with this is if we actually knew these people on a personal level, or had an interaction with them, we would venture to guess that over half of the time, we probably wouldn’t like them. 

When the people we most admire are the people we don’t know anything about on a personal level, we are in a dangerous spot.

You’ve heard the quote, “don’t meet your heroes.”

I don’t think you shouldn’t meet your heroes, I think that you should know your heroes. They should be your heroes because you know them on some level. You know personally that they are genuinely solid people. The more you know people, the more you see their flaws and faults, and the more you may realize you actually don’t want to be like them.

Our Heroes

My (Nathaniel) heroes, or people who I aspire to be like: Sean Robinson (mentor/friend; check out the episode he joined us on), old pastor Mark (associate pastor at the church I used to go to), my old boss Jake Hatfield, and my dad.

For sure, I was able to recognize that none of these people were perfect. I don’t necessarily want to be like them in every area of my life. But for all of them, I know that they live authentically and I would trust them to speak into my life, call me out, and raise my kids if necessary.

What’s also great is that these people are very different from each other, they are certainly not the spitting images of the others. They are all very different people, but I appreciate and value both of them.

What about Theological or Christian influences?

It’s okay to hold people you don’t know in high esteem. I (Nathaniel) don’t know any of my top theological influences personally (John Piper, Timothy Keller, C.S. Lewis, Paul David Tripp, etc…) but the difference is that I am listening to what they say because what they say is of value, not because of how I know them as a person.

If any of these people turn out to be terrible people, I will still value what I learned from them while recognizing that they were not good people. A great example of this was Ravi Zacharias. He was a solid Christian apologist, but he did some terrible things. Before I knew about the terrible things, I learned a decent bit from him, but after what he did came out, my faith wasn’t shaken. I didn’t idolize the man or continue to follow him, and what happened breaks my heart because it has cast a negative light on believers, but it didn’t shake me. I wasn’t putting him on a pedestal, so my faith wasn’t affected.

We see this so much in the deconstruction world, especially on TikTok. A big factor in their struggle is that someone that they admired got caught up in hypocrisy and scandal. Their faith was almost based on them. If you base your faith on someone else other than Jesus Christ it will be so easy for your faith to be shaken. Even if it is someone close to you like your mom, your faith can’t rest in someone else’s faith.

“Do What I Say, Not What I Do”

In Matthew 23:1-7, even Jesus said to do what the Pharisees taught but to not follow what they did. Learn from what they teach, but don’t follow how they live their lives.

I pray that none of my theological influences turn out to be Pharisees. But even if they do, I will be confident that I have learned and grown a lot from them due to the validity of what they taught. I have analyzed what they said against scripture and I believe it is accurate and beneficial.

So, what if I don’t know my “hero” personally?

Just because you don’t know someone personally does not mean that you cannot admire them or listen to them. You just need to be cautious.

Judge them based on what they are saying and to the best of your knowledge, see if they live it out. Aim to listen to people who have been living it out for a long time. Their life has proven that they believe what they talk about.

There is an article titled “Why we need a Joshua Harris Rule” which talks about two different people: Joshua Harris and Marie Kondo.

Josh Harris wrote I Kissed Dating Goodbye when he was 22 years old and before even being married. 20 years later he renounced his advice, got divorced, and actually walked away from the faith. He’s now a big figure in the deconstruction world.

Marie Kondo is the queen of cleaning and minimizing. But she built a whole brand on it before she had kids. Since having kids, she has stated that her organization, and even her commitment to cleanliness, has taken a back seat since she had kids.

But there are examples of the opposite: HB Charles became a pastor at 17 and is still faithfully shepherding his flock 30+ years later. We aren’t saying don’t follow people, we are saying carefully follow people who have been living what they say out for a long time.

Paul told Timothy to not allow people to look down on him for his youth in 1 Timothy 4:12. Instead, he was to set an example for other believers in speech, conduct, love, faith, and purity. This is what he was to be evaluated and judged based on.

Are you able to evaluate the life of people you look up to?  

Those Who Influence Us

The point is that we should hold what people say against the Bible. Determine value based on what they say, not who they are.  

We allow people who are popular to influence our views far more than we realize. If you’re listening to this, you might be thinking…. Wait, y’all aren’t that old! You haven’t been living it out for a long time!

We totally agree! We’re not special or above this. And we aren’t trying to hold a place of authority in your lives. We want to invite you into a conversation and have it with you. So, hold what we say up to Scripture! 

A lot of what we have learned is from people who have been walking it out for a long time. And if you know us in person, you know we practice what we preach (and we invite people to call us out!).

If you don’t know us in person, we are super thankful and think we do have wisdom to share, but hopefully, we aren’t your “go-to source.” You can’t confirm whether we live out what we say! We want you to be in a solid, healthy church where you can receive theological teaching.

Ideally, the people we learn the most from in our Christian walks are dead people. The people who faithfully lived their entire lives and were proven to be above reproach: Spurgeon, Lewis, Wesley, etc… We don’t want to romanticize or idolize them. They had their sin problems and faults, but their lives proved to be above reproach and we have a lot to learn from them.

How does this flesh out?

For me personally (Nathaniel), I have my personal people that I look up to and trust. 

Then, I have friends that I value and very much appreciate that speak into my life. They are the same age and are more on a peer level.

I also have theological influences that I listen to based on the merit of what they say. Up until at least this point in their lives, they have (to the best of my knowledge) demonstrated faithfulness and lived it out for a long time.

And I also have athletes that I follow because of their athletic achievements. But I don’t allow athletes to tell me, how I should think/vote/believe just because they are famous.

But, we need to be careful here. It is great that athletes use their platforms. Whoever told Lebron to shut up and dribble was wrong. They didn’t tell Tebow to shut up and play football. Athletes were given an opportunity in their platform.

Athletes can and should use their platforms to highlight what they believe. This is a good thing. However, when I hear things from athletes, I am discussing those things with my friends and the people I look up to. I don’t take them at their word.

For me (Xan), my thoughts on role models are a little less concrete. I’ve never necessarily had an answer to who my hero is. Typically, I would think of a certain woman in our local church, but it may not be a woman that I am in close proximity to. Maybe this is more reflective of me and not pursuing those discipleship relationships. But what discipleship looks like is a pretty nuanced conversation, especially for women. Also, it’s really hard for me to say that I have a hero that I want to be just like.

One Degree Shift

Evaluate who you look up to the most. If it is someone you do not know personally, aim to get to know someone in your church or community that you can learn from.

They don’t have to be perfect, but you can see that they genuinely love the Lord, love others, are humble, and aim to walk out the Christian life faithfully.

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