Several years ago I took a preaching class at Dallas Seminary with a guy who had grown up under the teaching ministry of John MacArthur Jr. This guy admired Dr. MacArthur so much that he had studied virtually every dimension of MacArthur's style. He moved his arms like MacArthur, inflected his voice like MacArthur, and intentionally tried to capture MacArthur's distinct preaching style and rhythm.

I don't think Dr. MacArthur would have been at all flattered. In fact, I think he would have been deeply offended by this kind of imitation because it implied that the power of Dr. MacArthur's preaching was in his mannerisms.

It's tempting for young Christians to find a person they admire spiritually to imitate. And certainly, there's a biblical example of that (1 Corinthians 4:16). But we have to be sure we're imitating the right thing.

When I first started growing as a Christian, my hero got up at 4:30am to study his Bible. So I started setting my alarm early, as if the key to spiritual growth was tied to the hour I woke up.

Rather than imitating MacArthur's gestures and inflections, my friend should have imitated his love for preaching the Scriptures. Instead of trying to shop at the same stores, watch the same shows, and follow the same schedule as other Christians we admire, we should follow how they follow Christ.

Otherwise, our imitation is not the sincerest form of flattery at all. Instead, it's an insult to the person we admire.