Jesus said, "Follow Me" (Luke 9:23)
Paul said "Follow me as I follow Christ" (1 Cor.11:1, Phil.3:17)
In those words of the apostle Paul, we see what the Holy Spirit expects every godly preacher to be able to say to all those to whom he preaches.
Many preachers say, "Don't follow me, but follow Christ". That sounds very humble. But it is only an excuse to cover up their defeated life; and it is totally contrary to the teaching of the Holy Spirit.
The only preachers I respect and follow are those who can say, "Follow me, as I follow Christ". But sad to say, such preachers are rare in our day.
Before Paul's conversion, he was a total failure. Yet God changed him and made him a great example for others to follow, even though he was not perfect (See Phil.3:12-14). (Even the best Christian in the world is not perfect but only pressing on to perfection.)
So, even if you have been a total failure in the past, God can still make you an example for others to follow.
There are seven characteristics that I look for primarily, in a preacher, before I can respect him and follow him as an example:
1. He must be a humble, approachable man. Jesus was humble and approachable (Matt.11: 29). People could approach Him anywhere and at any time. A Nicodemus could visit Him in His home at midnight; and anyone could talk to Jesus at any time in public places. Jesus' humility made Him eager to preach the gospel to the poor (as we Luke 4:18). Paul was a humble man who was quick to acknowledge his mistakes and apologize for them immediately (Acts 23:1-5). I will follow only such preachers who make no distinction between the rich and the poor, who have no "superior airs" about them, who are quick to apologize for their mistakes, and who always remain as ordinary brothers.
2. He must be one who never asks anyone for money - either for himself or for his ministry - and who has a simple life-style . If he does receive any freely-offered gifts (like Paul occasionally did - Phil.4:16-18) he will receive them only from people who are wealthier than him - and never from anyone poorer than him. Jesus never asked anyone for money either for Himself or for His ministry. And He received gifts only from those who were wealthier than Him (Luke 8:3). Jesus and Paul had simple lifestyles. I will follow only those preachers who have this same attitude that Jesus and Paul had, towards money and material things.
3. He must have a testimony as a godly man. He must be known as a godly, upright man who has a passion for holiness - one who does not seek his own in anything, who controls his tongue (James 1:26; Eph.4:26-31), is merciful to those who fail and who never boasts about his praying, his fasting or his giving (Matt.6:1-18). He must also have a testimony of total purity towards all women - young and old (1 Tim.5:2). I will follow only those preachers who have such an aroma of godliness in their lives.
4.He should have brought up his children in a godly way. His children should be following him as he follows Christ. The Holy Spirit says that no-one can be a leader in a church, if he has not first led his own children to godliness (1 Tim.3:4,5; Tit.1:6). Our children know us better than others, because they see us all the time at home. And if they see us living in a godly way at home, they too will follow the Lord wholeheartedly. I will follow only those preachers who have brought up their children to be godly and humble and respectful to all people.
5. He must be one who preaches the whole counsel of God fearlessly. He should proclaim everything written in the New Testament - every commandment and every promise - without seeking to please any man (Acts 20:27; Gal.1:10). If he is truly anointed with the Holy Spirit continuously, then, like Jesus and Paul, his messages will always be challenging and encouraging. I will follow only such preachers - in whom I sense the anointing of God when they speak.
6. He should have a passion to build local churches as expressions of Christ's Body . Jesus came to earth not only to save people from all sin, but also to build His church - as a Body that would manifest His Matt.16:18). Paul's passion therefore was to plant local churches like that everywhere, that would function as Christ's Body (Eph.4:15,16). And he worked hard towards that end (Col.1:28,29). I will follow only those preachers who seek to build local churches as functioning expressions of the Body of Christ.
7. He should have raised up at least a few co-workers who have his vision and his spirit . A godly preacher will always be concerned about the testimony of the Lord being preserved in purity in the next generation. Jesus raised up 11 disciples who imbibed His spirit and lived by His standards to carry on His work. Paul raised up Timothy and Titus, who lived by his spirit of humility and selflessness to carry on his work (Phil.2:19-21; 2 Cor.7:13-15). I will follow only those preachers who have raised up at least a few co-workers who have the qualities listed above.
If you are called by God to be a preacher, you must pray that He will anoint you with His Holy Spirit continuously and enable you to have all the qualities listed above, so that you can be an example for others to follow.
In this day of compromise and worldliness in Christendom, we are called to raise the standard of life and ministry, high in the church. May the Lord help us to do that. Amen.