Tony: Why do you think so many of today’s leaders are struggling with an identity crisis?
Mark: Leaders should be regularly evaluated by themselves and others regarding their performance. However, while our employment and compensation is tied to our performance, our ultimate worth should not be. Since Jesus is our perfection, our performance may explain us but never defines us.
Those who forget this truth labor in vain to achieve an identity which can only be received from God. This leaves leaders open to the demands of others and destruction of critics in a way that is unholy, unhealthy and unhappy.
Tony: What would happen if today’s leaders suddenly understood their identity in Christ?
Mark: They would be free to work from their identity rather than for their identity. This would allow leaders to be more bold, take more risks, endure more failure and experience less despair. If our identity is in Christ, we shouldn’t expect a life that is pain and crisis free, but rather pain and crisis proof.
Tony: What is the driving force behind so many leaders leaving the ministry?
Mark: There is a host of reasons, here are some of the more common ones I have seen in no particular order:
- Not called. Ministry is a calling and if you are not called you will quit. Without some sense of clear calling from God, it is only a matter of time before you go find a job with less pain and more pay.
- Not tough. Some leaders are not tough enough to endure the criticism that is now a very real and constant part of ministry in the age of technology. For some, it feels like death by a thousand bee stings.
- Not tender. Some leaders are too tough and become boorish, overbearing, unloving and discouraging to their people who eventually grow weary of them or revolt against them.
- Not hard working. Some pastors are frankly lazy. They get two days off a week when the Bible speaks only about one. They study two days a week. Add in half a day on Sunday with a service or two in the morning and five days of the week are gone with very little having been accomplished. They are so worried about burnout that they never get close enough to gaze upon it from miles away.
- Ministry idolatry. For some, ministry becomes idolatry where they lay their health, marriage and children on the altar of meeting other’s expectations and performing at a certain level as if the church was a reflection of their glory rather than God’s glory.
- Not a king. There are prophets who are preachers/teachers/theologians, priests who are counselors/encouragers/disciples and kings who are organizers/administrators/system builders. Nearly all ministry leaders are a combination of prophets and priests. Few know anything about the very important stewardship side of ministry such as raising money, hiring, firing, buying property, accounting, and financial procedures.
- Sin. Most of leadership is simply leading yourself. Not eating, drinking, or spending too much. Not getting into sexual sin, including pornography. I know a long list of gifted young leaders who shot themselves and their ministry by simply failing to keep their pants on.
Tony: What inspired you to write Who Do You Think You Are?
Mark: I am a Bible teaching pastor and have been for more than sixteen years. I am very competitive and driven by nature. When I have allowed my identity to be in my performance, I have pushed myself to being burned out and sick. Also, as I have had the great honor of founding and leading Mars Hill, I have seen the devastation that a poorly founded identity causes.
I wrote this book as a personal study for myself as I need to learn its lessons, wrote it for my 15 year old daughter Ashley as she is in the midst of the age when identity formation is bombed from friends and advertising, those I have the privilege of pastoring, as well as anyone else who is kind enough to allow me to serve them through very practical Biblical counsel.
Tony: Why are many of today’s leaders living for people’s approval rather than approval from God?
Mark: When people are paying your salary, voting on your job security, gossiping about you behind your back, making demands upon your family, expecting full access to your home and life while critiquing you online for the world to forever hear of things that may not even be true, they wield tremendous power. While still loving our people and wanting to be “above reproach” we must always retain a prophetic side to our ministry where we lovingly tell the truth no matter what the cost.
In the Bible, there is Jesus the Good Shepherd and Chief Shepherd. Under Jesus are Shepherds who help him love, lead and protect the sheep. In the church are the Sheep, as well as the Wolves. A good shepherd has to live for the approval of the Chief Shepherd, well being of the Sheep, and be willing to fight the Wolves even if they are called mean and unloving.
The Bible also speaks of a Hireling – someone who only sticks around because the pay is good and the work is easy. When the Wolves show up, the Hireling lets them feast on the flock or just runs away hiding in their study or polishing up their resume. When a Sheep, Wolf or Hireling is in a senior leadership position, it’s always bad for the Sheep and the Chief Shepherd.