Take It To The Next Level

Three times a week my wife has heart rehab. I'm in a exercise gym next door. We're both learning better habits. Plastered on the doors is this sign: “One-with-One Training. Take It To the Next Level. Link up with an athletic trainer. . . .” Spiritually we need to link up with a pacesetter who lives for Jesus and can help us train to get in shape, i.e. Christ-like.

“A pacesetter is a runner who helps the other runners keep a steady stride. Spiritually speaking, we often run along with someone else to encourage him in the race of life, to help him keep a steady pace. This principle permeates Scripture.”

“The principle of pacesetting is vital. Want to teach someone to pray? Pray together with him. Want to show someone how to witness? Go out and contact the unsaved together. Want to get your children to live in purity? Check out your own leisure habits. Want to make a disciple for Christ? Be one yourself.” 1

I wrote in my Bible listening to Dawson Trotman, “We are to be the embodiment of our message.” That is biblical M & M's: Mentoring and modeling.


The whole idea of mentoring and modeling is laced like flecks of gold in the mine of God's Word. The Bible lists some 2900 names of people. Some are described with a word, others sketched in a sentence, or whole paragraphs. God writes what he wants us to learn from them. We're to follow the godly, and avoid the foolish like a plague. God sees the hearts of all. He rewards the obedient, and sets consequences for all sin. “. . . now these things happened to them as examples: and are written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages are come.” (1 Corinthians 10:11 NASB; Romans 15:4 )

Jesus is our prime example to follow. Jesus called 12 to experience his life, attitudes, responses, “. . . to be with Him.” The disciples saw Jesus in a daily pressure cooker of crowds, criticism, threats, and they marked his responses. The old apostle John writes with young eyes about those days: “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in — we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we're telling you in the most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this, The infinite Life of God himself took shape before us.” (1 John 1:1, 2 — The Message)

Jesus called all to follow Him. Followers, not crowds was his passion. “Follow me . . . to be fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19). It wasn't fishing poles he told them to carry. “. . . deny your self, take up your cross daily and follow me.” (Matthew 10:38; Luke 9:23). Jesus modeled the job of a house slave and washed 24 dirty feet ( John 13:13-14 ). Then to their surprise he commanded they copy his attitude and life of serving others (note Matthew 20:27-28 ; Luke 22:27 ; John 20:21 ). Peter finally got it. He wrote tough words about following Jesus. It's our “call” to do good and suffer for it . “. . . Christ suffered for us, leaving us an example that ye should follow His steps.” (1 Peter 2:20, 21).

After Pentecost the Spirit-filled disciples became Jesus' hands, feet, and mouth. They did what they saw him do. You really want to serve Jesus? Nothing can substitute for your daily commitment to follow Jesus as Lord ( John 12:26 ).


Chuck Swindoll writes of the life-changing impact made on his life from the lives of five martyred missionaries whose goal was winning to Christ the Aucas tribe in Ecuador. These guys became his models. Chuck calls having a model “part of last-days survival training. If you just read and watch the media, you will turn down all models. You will be suspicious of every leader. Let's not let that happen to us! Just because a few have failed doesn't mean the ranks are full of nothing but charlatans, deceivers, and failures. Some are still people of truth . . . models of the ‘faith worth following.’ Follow them!” 2 The Bible commands us to follow others who follow Jesus. But with care. We are to always have one eye on Jesus through the Word, and the other eye on our pacesetter. ( Hebrews 13:7 )

Paul writes his first letter to new believers at Thessalonica. “Our gospel came not unto you in word only . . . as you know what manner of men we were among you, for your sake. And ye became followers (imitators) of us and of the Lord . . . so that ye were ensamples (Tupos — a mold or pattern) to all . . . .” (1 Thessalonians1:5-6). Paul was Jesus' mold. He scrupulously modeled and spoke what the Thessalonian converts were to imitate. They copied Paul's pattern of life and became, in turn, new copies, for those coming to Christ (vs. 7-10). Now with the Bible available, we don't make copies of copies, without going fresh to the Word to see Christ.

Turn through the “know” verses in 1 Thessalonians. “You know” (oida — you see) how we arrived, our boldness sharing (2:1, 2). He discipled them modeling with his example. You know . . . (vs. 5). Chapter 2:1, 2, 5, 11; chapter 3:3, 4; chapter 4:2; chapter 5:2, 12.

Paul exhorts the Philippians, “Those things which you have both learned, and received, heard, and seen in me do, and the God of peace shall be with you.” (Philippians 4:9) Paul wrote it again and again “Do what I do!” The word “follow” has some colorful meanings in Greek. The believers were to “mimic” their spiritual Father ( 1 Corinthians 4:15, 16 ); Philippians 3:17 (a "joint" imitator); 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 9 (mimic); 1 Timothy 4:12 ("example" to mold); Titus 2:7 (a "pattern" of good works). Hebrews 13:7(" to mimic"); 1 Peter 5:3 (be an example). In a mentoring relationship one can get close enough to follow well.


1. Following a pacesetter is the fastest way to master a reproducible skill. For centuries medicine and other disciplines were learned through an apprenticeship to a Master of the discipline. I recall photos of pioneer heart surgeon Debakey, mentoring a young surgeon, Denton Cooley. Cooley watched, questioned, and became famous for his speed and techniques with heart bypass and transplants. Among those that Cooley mentored is a Florida heart surgeon, Dr. Mike Carmichael. He and his wonderful family joined the church I pastored. That mentoring touch by a pacesetter in heart surgery shaped and changed Mike's whole life!

In Charlie Riggs' home, sitting around a table with others guys, I learned the joy of Inductive Bible Study. He and his wife LaRue opened their hearts to us. The simple four-question study method marked my personal devotional life and most of those I've mentored. Looking back, it is the most successful leadership building tool I used as a pastor. I'm so thankful I was there with a pacesetting man of God, who stretched me to learn. He went on to direct counseling and follow-up for Billy Graham 37 years.

2. The impact of a pacesetter now in your life can promote perspective, desire, and spiritual growth. We lack objectivity. “He that walketh with wise men shall be wise.”(Proverbs 13:20). “God's training is for now, not presently. His purpose is for this minute, not for something in the future. What men call training and preparation, God calls the end . . . (when) obedience is the end, then every moment is precious.” 3

3. A pacesetter can help you avoid detours, and hit your goal target. In one crisis situation, an older pastor who was my mentor responded to my questions with key verses of scripture that gave me a lighted path. Then questioned me carefully till I saw the pitfall my emotions were producing. I was helped to do God's best ( Psalm 119:130 ).

4. A pacesetter will lead safely where you haven't gone on your own. They stretch you. I've watched videos of climbing teams on Everest, all roped together for safety. A mentor will have tracked a path you may need to climb. Without a support system a fall could be fatal. Link up! “Two are better than one . . . for if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9, 10 NASB).

It was a rare delight to hear Dr. James Merritt, president of America's largest evangelical denomination, talking with some pastors. Then he invited a couple of younger pastors to “come visit me, and we'll spend time together in ministry and prayer.” Pacesetters are still available.

The Holy Spirit wants to reveal the character of Christ in the clay of our daily lives “. . . we have this treasure in clay pots so that the glory will go to God not us.” (2 Corinthians 4:6, 7). Anything that releases you from modeling the heart and passion of Jesus Christ is of man.


STOP! Rethink your priorities. Pray that God show you a pacesetter strong in your need area. Then ask them for a brief time. Share a need; ask for some time to learn from them. You might attend a weekend conference where a pacesetter is speaking.

Some years ago my wife and I were led to travel to hear a speaker. My prayer goal was to get time enough to walk around a half mile track learning from this pacesetter. He agreed to meet with us. His wise, careful counsel meant taking a lonely direction that could fill up to 10 years! God affirmed our path. We walked a tough road for seven years. The first goal was reached and God led us into a lifetime ministry.

LOOK! Put yourself in a following position, and you'll grow through observation, questions, doing what you see modeled. Some time leaders say little, but do much. Look well. You may get a Life-Changing University course in an hour. Be willing to watch; evaluate. Have questions ready to ask, when there is an opening.

LISTEN! For years I've mined gold, writing notes on conversations with men and women God graced me to meet or know. I might jot down a sentence as I listened. And always later, reflecting, I'd make more notes. Early on I wrote up treasures meeting with Henrietta Mears, Bill Bright, Daws Trotman, Elton Trueblood, and A.W. Tozer. In recent years I've profited with ideas from Charlie Riggs, Bruce Miller, Rick Warren, Howard Hendricks, Max Barnett, Roy Fish, others.

Ready? Are you a floater or do you have a trainer? Take it to the next level, now.

1. The Timothy Principle, pp. 85, 86, 88, Roy Robertson, The Navigators Singapore Pub., Box 643, Singapore 9144. 
2. Rise & Shine, p. 160, 161 Charles R. Swindoll, Multnomah, Portland OR., 1989) 
3. “A Treasury of Wisdom,” Oswald Chambers; compiled by Kin & Angela Abraham, April 29, Barbour Co. Uhlrechville, OH 44683