Epic Is About… Story

There’s no shortage of leadership paradigms out there.  When we find ourselves looking for philosophies of how to get things done and mobilize people towards a goal, there are no shortage of opinions and suggestions out there.  But as we consider that the heart of our mission is not just getting things done, but reproducing people — leaders who can both be fruitful on mission, as well as reproduce other leaders in kind… it calls for a different way of thinking about and seeing things.

Reproducing leaders has everything to do with intentionally cultivating the culture of a community.  What lies behind what we do, and how we choose to do it?  What are we about?  In the following nine blog posts, we will attempt to articulate “nine elements of  a leadership reproduction culture.”  These short posts are the result of a collaborative writing effort by various members of Epic National teams.  These are not intended to be just ideas disconnected from reality, but fundamentals of what we try to embody as leaders in Epic, and strive to reproduce in the next generation of leaders.

Feedback and questions are more than welcome!

On the road to fruitfulness in its mission, Epic is about… “Story”

By Brian Virtue, Adrian Pei, & Steve Hong

What makes life meaningful?  What makes our lives worth living?  These are some of the most fundamental questions of human existence. Perhaps one of the best metaphors to help us understand those questions, is found in the concept of “story.”

When you hear the word “story,” you might think of some kind of romantic tale, or romanticized medium of communication. But consider it as a paradigm for the way we can make sense of reality — whether it’s our own, others’, or the reality of a whole community of people.

Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Imagine this in the context of the timeline of our lives. Every person and community has a backstory, a story with origins and heritage and identity-shaping influences. Everything we value is shaped by this part of our story, which some might call “the past.” But the past isn’t just a collection of memories disconnected from the present. It is very much a part of who we are today, because it forms everything we find meaningful — whether in our work or relationships. As leaders, we must realize we bring our past into our leadership, whether or not we are aware.

Just like the past, our future shapes what we find meaningful today. We continue to persevere with the hope that there is a future ahead, which will affirm our actions and efforts — indeed, our very existence itself. Whether we realize it or not, hope of a brighter future is the central answer to the question, “What am I living for?” As leaders, we can’t and shouldn’t live disconnected from the future, either, or we will lose sight of the results of our choices and actions.

Story isn’t just about time, however. It’s about context, and all the uniqueness and complexity in us, and around us. None of our stories are lived out in a vacuum. We can’t assess any reality, nor embark on any endeavor, without understanding the surrounding factors and variables that give meaning to every situation. Effective leadership and vision recognizes this.

Story is important to who we are as people, and as leaders; in fact, it is so fundamental that we often don’t even realize what we are losing when we fail to see ourselves, others, and the world with the respect and depth described above. Without story, we lose connection with the very things that make life livable and significant. Without honoring the larger narratives of time and context, we fall into conformity and lose what is meaningful to us, both as individuals and as members of communities.

Leadership is about engaging life and others, and it’s about generating vision. But all of that will be fruitless, unless it addresses the most fundamental questions of what makes life meaningful, and worth living. That is what keeps each of us going, and persevering towards the mission, knowing that our stories will find redemption in God.

Discussion Questions:

  • What is your backstory? What aspects of your past do you most bring into your leadership today?
  • The post above says, “Without honoring the larger narratives of time and context, we fall into conformity and lose what is meaningful to us, both as individuals and as members of communities.”  How have you seen this played out in your own (or others’) approach to leadership or ministry?