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The Leader as "Primary Environment"

In the past several weeks, we have been discussing how someone actually provides leadership to others. In these blogs, I have laid out a holistic construct of identity (as son & daughters of God), capacity (we are servants with the heart of Jesus), and destiny (we are stewards with a Kingdom responsibility). The framework helps us understand our personhood and also how who we are in Christ as a whole person affects our leadership. As we have said, we lead others out of all three aspects of who we are. In the last blog, I shared how we lead in the context of the Kingdom community. The relational fabric of a community is both the environment and the means of leadership. Our leadership – the influence of who we are upon others – shapes and affects those we lead towards God’s preferred Kingdom future. The triad of identity, capacity, and destiny underlies everything a leader is and is the source of everything a leader does. Here is the critical thought for today:

The leader is the “primary environment” of the larger Kingdom community in which they lead. What is in the leader (or leaders) will be formed in the people whom they lead.

The incarnational reality of the Spirit of Christ in us is the very core and means of our leadership. The security of our identity in Christ, the cultivation of our heart capacity, and the unique gifts and skill sets all combine into the grace empowerment of Christ in us. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 15:10:

“But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me.”

He understood his impact on others when he said, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1), as well as the influence of his life upon Timothy, his son in the faith when he said, “You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness, my persecutions and sufferings...” (1 Timothy 3:10-11a). Christ in Paul the person was the resource which he drew upon in life and ministry. Christ, as expressed through Paul, the person in his nature, character, and gifting, is what his ministry was. While we all need to continually pursue Christ and our maturation in Him, we must trust Christ in us and believe that He has already provided what we need to do what He has called us to do. Now, to be sure, who we are in our character and ability may be in a nascent stage and need to grow. Still, the grace which currently empowers us is enough for today. Yes, press into Christ. Yes, continue to grow in your identity, capacity, and destiny, but act now upon what you already know to do with what you already have in Christ.

Sadly, most leaders, faced with the often daunting task of leading in the Kingdom mission of Jesus, look outside themselves for resources they attempt to utilize. A lack of understanding of their identity in Christ, a heart which is not like Christ's, and a lack of awareness or development of our grace-gifts leave us feeling unprepared for the call. While we all ought to be life-long learners, and we should always seek wise counsel from others regarding both life and mission, what someone else has crafted or done is no substitute for Christ in us. It’s like David trying to wear Saul’s armor and use his sword. It didn’t fit him because it wasn’t him:

Then Saul clothed David with his armor. He put a helmet of bronze on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail, and David strapped his sword over his armor. And he tried in vain to go, for he had not tested them. Then David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” So David put them off. Then he took his staff in his hand and chose five smooth stones from the brook and put them in his shepherd’s pouch. His sling was in his hand, and he approached the Philistine (1 Samuel 17:38-40).

David had a sling and a staff he knew how to use, so he employed them to defeat Goliath. Therefore, we cannot neglect the cultivation of our own self, the development of our identity, capacity, and destiny. We must grow the resource of Jesus in us through self-leadership, responding to the Holy Spirit. You cannot wear anyone else’s kit – you are already clothed in the armor of God, Jesus Christ Himself (Ref. Ephesians 6:10-20)!

Dear leader, reject Saul’s armor, take what you have been given – who you are in Christ, and who Christ is in you! Don’t look for someone outside you to be your answer – trust Christ in you to be enough. Yes, learn from others. Yes, let Christ be formed in you through those in the community around you. Yes, always be open to new ideas, new thinking, new ways of doing things in ministry. But don’t neglect your own self, which is the primary environment you must first cultivate. Allow yourself to be transformed in the Lord so that you might see Christ formed in others and see His Kingdom mission be fruitful.

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