The idea that gripped Dawson’s mind that Friday was this: A son will observe and imitate his father’s ways. Solomon said it, Gideon said it, but who was saying it now? That evening Dawson spoke to an eager audience of five hundred conferees. He started with some Trotman humor, gave them a few war stories, and then got into his message: “Pacesetting.”
“Have you ever watched a flock of sheep?” Daws asked the audience. “If you get that chance, take it. Sit and observe. One lamb will jump over a couple of boards. Then another will follow, and then another. The shepherd pulls the boards away and what happens? The lambs continue to jump over where the boards used to be. ‘Follow the leader’ is the game they are playing. Habit says to them, ‘Jump,’ even though there is no reason for jumping any longer.”
Daws went on to graphically describe how people are like sheep, playing games, with someone out in front leading the way. “You can’t get others to do what you aren’t doing yourself. If you don’t jump, don’t expect them to jump. You can’t give something away if it isn’t yours.”
Then for the next hour, Dawson took those five hundred people through the New Testament and showed them what Jesus, the disciples, and Paul had to say on this vital principle of Christian living: “Jesus didn’t say to His men here by the seaside of Galilee,’ Listen to me and I will make you fishers of men.’ Nor did He say to those hearty men,’ Read some of the books on the subject, and that will make you fishers of men.’ No, Jesus said to them,’ Follow me.’ And for the next three years they did just that. Seldom did Jesus teach with mere words, but He taught by demonstration, illustrations, and living out His own life before them. In The Navigators, we call this the ‘with Him’ principle. It is based on the whole context of the Gospels, but particularly on verses like Mark 3:14: ‘He ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach’ (emphasis added).”
As the Mount Hermon crowd was busy taking notes, Daws turned with them to the book of 1 Corinthians. He loved to pitch his spiritual tent on the fourth chapter, verses 14-16: “My beloved sons … though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers … I have begotten you … be ye followers of me.” Then quickly he would turn to 11:1: “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.”
His speaking tactics were often unorthodox, and this evening was no exception. Seeing that his audience was getting tired, Dawson decided to illustrate his point physically to wake them up. He went out into the audience, selected two young fellows, and got in line with them. “Right foot forward! Left foot forward!” Those three men, as close together as possible, marched across the front of the tabernacle building as one. At the middle, in front of the pulpit, he made them stop. “Let’s call the first one in line Jesus Christ. You are the leader and we are followers.
“You in the middle, your name is Paul. Just like the man who wrote the letter to Corinth and the little church there. My name will be Crispus. My home is Corinth. Lived there all my life. Paul came in and preached in Corinth, I listened to all that he had to say, and I became a believer of the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I, Crispus, am walking in the footsteps of Paul. Paul, you walk as closely as you can to Jesus. Get in step with Him. If you are following in His footsteps and I am walking in your footsteps, then I am walking in the footsteps of my Lord.
“If we are all in step, and Paul is keeping low and out of sight, when I look at him, I don’t see Paul. He is so close to Jesus Christ, that all I see is Christ.
“That’s pacesetting. That is the biblical pattern. This is what Paul was also telling the church at Philippi: ‘Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you’ (Philippians 4:9).”
Dawson had the young men look up these passages of Scripture, which he felt were important illustrations of or commands to be pacesetters:
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example. (Philippians 3:17)
Ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. (1 Thessalonians 1:6)
Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:12)
After relating several stories from his own life on mistakes he had made and lessons learned in pacesetting, he concluded, “I must be living the Christ-centered, Spirit-filled life if I would have another whom I am working with live that kind of life. I must be in the Word of God on a daily basis if I would have my man be a man of the Word. I must be a fisher of men if I want my spiritual Timothy to reproduce after his kind…. As Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 3, verses 7 and 9. ‘Know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you … to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us.’”
That spring day at Mount Hermon in 1954 was one of the few occasions when Dawson devoted an entire message to this subject. He felt much more comfortable practicing it than preaching it. If he saw a weak link in the chain of Christianity, he would try to set the pace in that weak area, speak out in a positive manner, and hope that others would pick up the message they heard and observed.
Robert Foster, The Navigator (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale, 2014).
If you would like to lead your people to make disciples using the Pacesetting” principle, you will need, of course, to model the principle by setting the pace for your people. If you would like a lesson to help to teach this explicitly, look at lesson #4 in this set of free lessons: You can access them here. https://www.joshhunt.com/bible-lessons-for-bible-teachers