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Identity! Capturing Freedom to Lead and to Live

Every church leader I know risks fastening their identity to the wrong thing.

Identity might be the most fundamental of leadership building blocks.

The Flourishing in Ministry study funded by Lilly Foundation interviewed thousands of pastors. It’s one of their four fundamentals to avoid a lifetime of life depleting ministry. True for the rest of us, too. Here are the four:

Clear, correct, gifted by God, biblical identity.

It’s a fundamental. Leaders too often drift for decades being damaged by no clarity of identity.

It’s one of the fundamental building blocks in Leadership Essentials and the starting point in Discipleship to Missional Community.

Let me illustrate from by Nebraska farm boy roots. Here’s what I learned:

You can’t plant corn when you hook your tractor to a plow.

You can’t cultivate corn when you hook your tractor to a mower.

You can’t harvest corn when you hook your tractor to a manure spreader.

(Tell me if I’m going too fast!)

When leaders attach their identity to the wrong thing it…

  • Delivers a wrong result.
  • Offers an elusive promise.
  • Builds on the other ground of shifting sand.

Your identity? You are an heir! Adopted! A baptized child of God!

My guess is you know that. My guess is that you’re not living that. Not leading out of that.

Leaders that live and function with this identity…

  • Live with grace.
  • Possess quiet confidence.
  • Are comfortable with who they are because it’s imbedded in them Whose they are.

They’re ..

  • Free to be bold
  • Free to follow where God leads
  • Free to challenge
  • Free to risk failing
  • Free to love their husband or wife if they’re married
  • Free to be good moms and dads to their kids
  • Free to accept what comes and to adapt

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God….the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship…we are God’s children…heirs of God. (Romans 8:14-16)

Leaders hitch their identity to any number of implements.

  • Approval Do they like me? Will they still like me?
  • Comparison So, how big is your church?
  • Successful Titles. Accomplishments. Positions. Degrees.
  • That Would Be “It” If we had that car, that church, that neighborhood, that vacation to post on Facebook

For me? It was approval.

  • In my early years it made it difficult to deal with conflict. Address staff issues. Confront bad behavior in the congregation.
  • For many years, my hidden nemesis lead to life out of balance. Start early. Stay late. (In the name of Jesus, of course.) Get family and ministry out of balance. Rest and work out of balance. Time with Gail, our kids and everyone else out of balance. (Deep regrets here.)

It’s a fundamental building block I left out of my foundation that could have enabled me to be a much better husband, dad, leader, discipler, missionary, pastor…sooner.

Better for me to play to an audience of One for approval. Much more grace to be had there!

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.

I wish I could have overheard for myself: You are my Son, whom I love, with you I am well pleased.

I wish that for you!

Do whatever it takes to get this one right. Not just saying it right. But living it. Leading with it.

Contact Raechel if it might be time to fasten down some core building blocks of your life and leadership in Leadership Essentials. And, if you’re married, it will be an even bigger blessing to your wife or your husband.

One Response

  1. Tom K says:

    Great words. Two thoughts that came to me when reading this was, the highest form of leadership is self-leadership. I need to not only know my identity but intentionally live it out on a daily basis. Something that I have come to learn and apply focuses around my calendar. Do I control my calendar or do I allow others to control it? Thanks for your words Jock.

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