Kary Oberbrunner serves as a pastor at Grace Church in Ohio. He founded a life-coaching movement called Redeem the Day and has written several books. His newest one, Your Secret Name, calls us to stop accepting the world’s labels and start wrestling with God to discover our true identity.
I ‘ve never seen a book built on the idea of Revelation 2:17 before. I think conceptually you might find it similar to Mark Batterson’s book In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day. But I want to put the idea before you for you to discuss with Kary today. Feel free to ask questions and discuss.
Ed Stetzer: Kary, tell us how this book came about–what was the passion behind it?
Kary Oberbrunner: I guess growing up with a girl’s name (Kary) left me perpetually wanting more in the whole name area. You might say I was “name deprived.” I’ve always been utterly intrigued with the verse in Revelation 2:17 about the new name written on the white stone. Like most people though, I never knew what this verse meant. To me it sounded like fiction. And let’s be honest most people don’t know anything about this verse. Even as a graduate of two seminaries with a Master’s and Doctorate degree, I’ve never heard one single talk on this verse. It’s kind of like God hard-wired us to desire a Secret Name and put a verse in His word about it. Strangely, for the most part, church history has left us in the dark about it. So by accident I set out on a task to explore the epic truth surrounding this concept of Secret Names.
ES: Names were very important in Bible times, are they still important today? In what way?
KO: We’ve lost a sense of who we are. And so we’re on a quest to discover our true identity. There was once a world without names, but one single choice in Eden changed all that. Ever since the Tower of Babel, we’ve been trying to make a name for ourselves outside of a relationship with God (Genesis 11:4). Our experience with names is incredibly impoverished comparatively speaking, but our need to discover our true name is just as poignant as in Bible times.
ES: What’s the imposter syndrome and how does it affect ministry leaders?
KO: Experts say that 70% of us are imposters, especially those in leadership positions.
Many of us exist as out-of-touch anomalies–more aware of the oil levels in the cars we drive (and for guys like me that’s pretty clueless) than the soul levels in the lives we live. This discrepancy is why we’re addicted to affirmation, why we work the long hours, why we keep massaging that unspoken addiction.
We look to other people for cues on who we really are. Then we take those cues and tell ourselves to be satisfied with the trivial terms these people grant us. No wonder we feel an unsettling ache deep within.
When we pretend others can somehow grant us our Secret Name, we only perpetuate the lie.
Fellow humans, no matter how loud they speak, can never replace the voice of the Father. His whisper alone satisfies the soul ache that universally infects us all. He knows us much better than we know ourselves.
The truth is, we’d miserably fail a self-awareness test even if our lives depended on it.
This reality touches on a serious condition–called imposter syndrome–which affects more and more people annually. People who suffer from imposter syndrome feel they don’t know themselves–like they’re phonies and frauds. They use similar phrases to describe they’re fears, phrases like:
- “I’m a fake.”
- “I’m going to be found out.”
- “‘They made a mistake and I shouldn’t be here.”
These feelings prove toxic on many fronts. For starters, people with imposter syndrome often put unhealthy pressure on themselves. Because they’re plagued with a fear of being found out, they vow never to slip up or mess up; as a result they often struggle with perfectionism. By default they believe their efforts don’t measure up and always feel they are one step short of where they should be.
Guilt and depression often settle in.
Environments like the church can unknowingly perpetuate plastic performance. Followers of Jesus must courageously embrace a life of authenticity and carve out new environments that celebrate brokenness and healing. Churches should be known as hospitals for sinners rather than museums for saints.
ES: How does knowing what you have called Your Secret Name change your life?
KO: Every follower of Jesus has 3 types of names:
- Birth Name-the name assigned to you when you arrived in this world.
- Given Names-the names you inherit while walking in this world (positive and negative).
- Secret Name-the name granted to you by the One who made you.
God’s whisper alone satisfies your soul ache because God alone knows you better than you know yourself. Until we learn our Secret Name we’re either a mass of frozen potential yet to come alive, or we come alive prematurely, acting out our Given Names because they’re the only names we know. When you discover Your Secret Name, you also discover your divine destiny.
ES: Why is this book so important for church leaders to read themselves?
KO: Church leaders set the pace. If church leaders prefer wearing masks and posturing for position, than the non-leaders are even 10 steps behind them. Church leaders must model what it means to live freely as the people of God who’ve discovered how to walk in their New Names.
ES: What do you hope to accomplish with the book? What’s the take-away for the church?
KO: I hope to spread the message of hope and freedom that Jesus offers. A take-away for the church is to realize that there is a huge group of people in need of discovering their New Name.
In addition to the book, Kary has developed a website with a video, test, and many more resources to explore the idea behind Your Secret Name. He will be answering questions at the blog today, so feel free to comment.
What do you think and what more would you like to know from Kary?