Tell them who they Are.
I have a friend who has an infinite amount of potential, she’s studying to become a youth pastor and serving at a church in that role during this time in her education. She loves the kids and for the most part they listen to her, her and her fiancé have an enormous desire to see them grow in their walks and they have the knowledge to do it. But I’ve observed that something is missing, something most needed in team leadership and that is affirmation.
Why Affirmation? And what kind of affirmation? I’m not talking about what I call “Lifeboat affirmation,” you know “Hey, you’re doing good” and “Man, you really have a way with those kids.” This type of affirmation is helpful, but can also build up pride and a false sense of self-importance if it isn’t given wisely. I’m talking about spiritual affirmation, and how do we do that? By telling those who lead by our side who they are in Christ. Spiritual affirmation, which goes far beyond “Good job” will not only encourage team members but also may help them be more productive.
So who are we, and who are those we are working with this. Recently my dad, Rev. David Faulkner (Writer of The College Commitments) and I have been engaged in a discussion about this, a discussion that has led to the most powerful sermon I ever heard him preach. We started to ask the question “How should Christians self-identify?” What we found has changed both our lives.
First off, we looked at who the American church has said we are, the answer we came up with is sinners. You don’t have to go far to find it, most churches preach only of the sin that we have been saved from, the term “Sinners in need of grace” is all too often applied to Christians, who by the way have already received grace. Also we concluded that we don’t need to be reminded of our sin, that we have our conscience, the Holy Spirit and the Accuser to remind us, these are ever present, so why should we have to hear it from our pastors too?
This type of gospel of sin only drags us down, steals any positive inclinations we still have. We have to constantly remind ourselves we are sinners then we are constantly having to tear ourselves down, or constantly being torn down by others. But guess what, God has called us something else. In Matthew 16 Jesus gives Peter a new name, in Acts Saul’s name is changed to Paul and at the start of every single Pauline Epistle Paul says “To the Saints.” We are Saints, we were once sinners, but now we are saints, yes we still sin, we are not perfect, but dear friends God has called us Saints. He does this out of love, because he loves us, he has given us a new identity. Everything in scripture has been done so that God, who so loved us, could call us Saints.
And guess what, it doesn’t matter where your fellow leaders are at in their walks, they are still saints. Paul even calls the Corinthians Saints, as well as those “Foolish Galatians.” So regardless of how we as leaders view our co-leaders and even our parishioners they are still saints. This endorsement of what God has done for us is encouraging, it’s energizing and it’s strengthening. We have been set free from sin, so why should we constantly be reminded that we were sinners by those around us.
I’m finding more and more that this understanding of our identity in Christ will also help to build up the community. A community that is constantly trying to manage sin will become very legalistic, making certain things off limits that scripture never prohibits. But a community of believers living in freedom under the understanding of who we are in Christ will encourage that freedom and encourage one another. God didn’t call us to be slaves to fear but slaves to righteousness. Choosing what is right by our conscience and scripture rather than telling one another based on opinions. If we want to lead a healthy team we need to encourage their identity and identify their potential. Hear that, encourage their identity and identify their potential.
Dear friends, leadership isn’t about station, it’s about building up the church. So take the lead, build up your team and stand firm on your identity as a Saint of the living God.