As a leader, having my identity in something else or someone else and not in Jesus is a recipe for disaster. It’s what Tim Keller called having a substitute God or a functional idol. I have personally wrestled with this problem through the years.

Pastor and author Eric Geiger shares some very keen thoughts  for leaders on protecting our. hearts from mis-placed identify.

Guest Post by Eric Geiger

Eminem is one of the most accomplished artists in the history of the music industry. Though not nearly as broadly known, Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones was a well-respected author and preacher in his day as he served Westminster Chapel in London. Though both are considered highly influential, Eminem and Martyn Lloyd-Jones articulated very different responses to waning influence.

From Eminem’s song Walk on Water:

The crowds are gone
And it’s time to wash out the blonde
Sales decline, the curtains drawn
They’re closing the set, I’m still poking my head out from behind
And everyone who has doubt, remind
Now take your best rhyme, outdo it, now do it a thousand times
Now let ’em tell ya the world no longer cares … about your rhymes
And as I grow outta sight, outta mind, I might go outta mine
‘Cause how do I, ever let this mic go without a fight

From Lloyd-Jones biography:

When his biographer, Iain Murray, asked him how he was coping with his shrinking influence because of cancer and declining health, Martyn Lloyd-Jones responded: “Don’t rejoice that spirits submit to you. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven. I am perfectly content.”

Two very different viewpoints from two very gifted people about life and one’s gifting and craft. While Eminem described being restless, Lloyd-Jones could say he was perfectly content because his identity was based on his relationship with God and not on his profession. Eminem described the pressure of outdoing himself and the pain of letting the mic go. Lloyd-Jones quoted the words of Jesus as Jesus encouraged His disciples to rejoice more in what He accomplished for them than in what they accomplished for Him.

The leader suffers when identity is found in the work instead of in Christ. But it is not only the leader who suffers. Here are two adverse effects of misplaced identity in the leader’s heart.

Misplaced identity crushes leadership development.

A leader who finds worth in the role will be reluctant to hand responsibilities to others. The leader thinks that by doing so, part of their worth will be handed away too. A healthy leader is able to hand responsibilities to others and rejoice when others thrive.

Misplaced identity hampers wise succession plans.

I learned this insight from my predecessor, Kenton Beshore. On our podcast about succession, Kenton shared how he had to get to the place where he knew his identity was secure outside of being the pastor of Mariners Church, and how one of the reasons many leaders hesitate to begin succession planning is they have their identity too connected to their roles.

“Don’t rejoice that spirits submit to you. Rejoice that your name is written in heaven.” Finding your worth in what Christ has done for you is good for your joy and good for those you lead.