Paul did not have a formal teaching process. He did not teach from a curriculum. Instead Paul’s life was an open book and he intended that everything he did would be of value for those who observed him. 1 Corinthians 10:31 reflects this attitude as well. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.” Paul did everything for God’s glory and expected people to learn from it.
Specifically, Paul talks about the ways that others are disciple by him in Philippians 4:8-9.
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. 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.
Because Paul walks the walk and talks the talk, he can tell people to do as he does and as he says. This has implications for every Christian because we are all examples. Any time that we go out in public and are around people who know that we are Christians; we are going to be observed. Christianity is going to be judged based on how we act.
You’re well aware that the pastor is in the spotlight wherever he goes. People have certain expectations of the pastor. But it is the same for every Christian. For better or worse, all Christians are under the same pressure as the pastor to live the Christian life as well as they can, most just don’t realize the responsibility. You’ve probably heard it said as often as I have that people don’t want to have anything to do with Christianity because they are hypocrites. Fair or unfair that is the impression that a number of people have of Christianity.
When pastors fall from grace, it is high profile. The media will latch onto the story and carry it wherever they can go with it. It is bad publicity for the Christian community. But the truth is that most people do not judge Christianity based on the slipups of a few wayward pastors. They may read about the sins of a pastor but they are most likely to judge Christianity based on what they have experienced from Christians. That means the average person in the pew goes much further in shaping others opinions on Christianity than a pastor because the average person knows many Christians but not many pastors.
Pastors are held to a higher standard by people who know them. People expect a pastor to be “holier” than them. But the non-Christian world isn’t basing their view of Christianity on pastors, they are basing it on the average Christian in the pew.
Paul instructed his readers to imitate him. Paul writes just this in 1 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore I urge you to imitate me.” As a pastor, Paul knew that everyone was looking to him as an example. He could only set this example as long as he imitated Christ however. In the end, Christ is the standard for all of us. Others will judge Christianity based on what we do for better or worse, and the best that we can do is to imitate Christ.
Paul wasn’t a perfect example though. He was open and honest about his failings as well. He writes that he is the chief of sinners. He writes about wrestling with God over his thorn in the flesh. Paul was able to balance being a good Christian model and also acknowledging his faults and that he wasn’t the perfect model – only Jesus was and is.