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Identity – Capturing Freedom to Lead and Live

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

That’s alarming given the fact that identity might be the most fundamental of leadership building blocks.

The Flourishing in Ministry study funded by the Lilly Foundation in 2019 interviewed thousands of pastors. Their results showed that placing your identity in the wrong thing is one of four fundamentals that limits leaders to a lifetime of life-depleting ministry. It’s true for the rest of us, too.

Clear, correct, gifted-by-God, biblical identity is essential. Leaders too often drift for decades being damaged by no clarity of identity.

Let me illustrate from my 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 a 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, and 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.


Free to be bold.
Free to follow where God leads.
Free to challenge.
Free to risk failing.
Free to love their family, friends, neighbors, roommates.
Free to accept what comes and free 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, what difference are you making?
  • Success – Titles. Accomplishments. Positions. Degrees.
  • That Would Be “It” – If we had that car, that house, 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.

It’s better for me to play to an audience of One for approval. There’s much more grace to be had there!

You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased. – Matthew 3:17

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.

One Response

  1. Rick Meyer says:

    Mine is a cautionary tale. I used to live and lead from this fundamental truth of my identity. My first book was even titled, “I Love You, Son” based on the words of the Father to Jesus at his baptism. But I got scared along the way (a child’s illness) and took a wrong (seemingly safe) turn and lost my way. I spent the rest of my ministry years feeling misplaced and unsettled. Please, listen to Jock’s message here and take it to heart. Your life will be better for it!

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