This is one of those verses where one phrase can say so much. Paul applauded the Thessalonian believers for their outstanding response to his ministry with them. He was thrilled that they turned to the Lord after Paul had spent only about three weeks with them - see Acts 17:1-9. What excited Paul was to learn how these believers were taking Paul's example and following it.
Does that bother you? It did make me sit back and think about it the first time I read it years ago. My question was, "How could a man like Paul want people following him when he should be encouraging them to follow the Lord?" I think a lot of Christians feel the same way. But as I've been reading the Scriptures, God gives us many people as examples of how to trust the Lord and live the Christian life. And Paul is one of those chief examples God has given to us, not only as we watch him through the book of Acts, but also as we read of his understanding the way God wants to work in and through our lives.
Please note: Paul spoke of the believers following him "as he followed the Lord." He knew that his example would put "flesh and bone" on his teaching and give Christians a clear picture of what they were to do. And God still uses mature believers in the same way today. Note what Paul said to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12, "...but be an example to the believers..." We all are examples! Think about that! We may not all be good examples, but our lives do influence others. Are you living the kind of life that you would not be ashamed if others followed your example? If they did, would they be "following the Lord" too?"