In the following nine blog posts, we will attempt to articulate “nine elements of a leadership reproduction culture.” For more explanation, see our first post here. Feedback and questions are more than welcome!
On the Road to Fruitfulness in its Mission, Epic Is About…. “Growing in Identity”
By Brian Virtue & Adrian Pei
Who am I? Who are you? These seem like simple questions, yet they are deeply significant to leadership and the serving of others. In fact, when it comes to leadership development, there may be nothing more important to start with, than understanding and living out of our identity.
Identity is not just formed by strengths or weaknesses or the results we have received from taking various inventories that attempt to describe who we are in some way. At its heart, it involves three elements:
First, identity is about grasping one’s uniqueness in community. Those that only see identity in terms of positional identity of “who we are in Christ” according to the Scriptures need to be reminded that positional identity is still being lived out and experienced in the various contexts of a person’s life. God has been forming and shaping us through a myriad of variables, including: family dynamics, geography of residency, significant experiences, ethnicity and culture, socio-economic class, status of power and privilege, organizational influences, and so many more. Growing in identity comes from seeing and grasping how these factors have formed us, and shaped our values, preferences and capacity. God, in His infinite wisdom and sovereignty, continues to use our contexts to shape us in conjunction with who we were designed to be.
Second, identity is about accepting complexity in community. As individuals, we are not fixed entities that do not change. We live in a dynamic world, where every experience and relationship leaves its mark on us, contributing to our story. And we in turn make our marks on others’ stories as well. But while we are influenced by our environments, we are not to be defined by people or environments. On the contrary, as we learn to recognize and acknowledge God as a complex Being who is interweaving our contexts and stories together, we are freed to live in awareness and intentionality. We can grow in recognizing and embracing our God-given ability to choose how we will live, rather than blindly reacting to what is going on around us.
Finally, identity is about understanding and honoring diversity in community. So often, grasping one’s own uniqueness leads to a greater appreciation for differences we see in other people. It becomes clearer to us that “one size does not fit all.” And as we honor diversity, we see how each unique person, group, and culture contributes distinct value to the whole. Moreover, as we navigate the tension of working with those different from ourselves, we move towards an even clearer vision of who we are.
Growing in and stewarding our identity are fundamental to leadership development. Leaders must be able to relate to those who are different from themselves, without losing their own sense of who they are, or else fail in the partnering and bridging that are so vital to fruitfulness and mission.
- The post above lists a myriad of variables that impact identity, including: family dynamics, geography of residency, significant experiences, ethnicity and culture, socio-economic class, status of power and privilege, organizational influences, etc. Reflect on how God has used 2-3 of these to shape you and your leadership today. Discuss with your team.
- Honoring complexity and diversity are fundamental to working with, and ministering to, other people. What does it mean to you, to relate to those who are different from you, without losing your sense of who you are? What might that look like in your context, in terms of partnership and mission?