Everything starts with identifying your message. What is the unique value proposition God has given you? What value does your calling bring to those around you? This may sound simple, but many I have worked with struggle to answer these questions.
We need to start with identity and purpose. Knowing who you are in Christ is fundamental if you want to make a difference in the world. Even top-level influencers find it hard to identify specifically what they have to offer. Sure, most of them know how to give a generic answer, but this question needs to be answered with precision. What sets you apart from everyone else?
Jesus knew who he was. He knew the specific value he brought to his target audience. When he went into the synagogue at Nazareth, he read from the book of Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19, NKJV).
Isn’t that amazing? Jesus didn’t come with a generic, one-size-fits-all message. He knew who he was and he spoke with confidence about what he had to offer to specific people. His message was not abstract. It was practical and clear, tailored to his target audience. Four things stand out about him:
- He knew he was anointed and called by God with a specific gift; he was able to confidently proclaim who he was.
- He understood his message and its specific value proposition, as he brought good news, healing, liberty and sight.
- He knew his target audience, the ones who would most benefit from the value he was offering. He knew they were the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind and the oppressed.
- His message was clear. For instance, one of his target audiences was the blind. What was his value proposition to them? You don’t have to be blind anymore! Another target demographic was the poor. His value proposition to them? You don’t have to be poor anymore!
Jesus was specific in who he was, who he was trying to reach and how he was going to help them solve their problems. What is your unique message and gift in your ministry or business or area of influence? What is the value you have to offer? Who are the people who will most benefit from your message? To whom are you sent? It’s all about knowing who you are and articulating it in a way that helps the people you’re called to reach.
Unity doesn’t mean uniformity
God chose to give each and every person a measure of his value to steward. God’s distribution strategy is to use us, his body. There are so many sides to God’s creative expression that it’s impossible for one human to display them. In fact, collectively as humanity, we still aren’t able to define the boundaries of his creative expression: He does more than what we can even think or imagine.
In our limited mindsets, we tend to create ministry templates that allow God to work through us in a limited set of rules we create for him. Those parameters that we’ve defined make up only a sliver of the potential spectrum of possibility within God’s reality. Yet when we look at our churches, ministries, projects and events, they all seem to look the same. Why is this?
It’s because we fail to see our unique value proposition. We model after each other instead of trying to figure out who God says we are individually. The devil will make you believe uniformity is a virtue, but it isn’t.
I discovered this truth several years ago when I was teaching at a Bible college in Aruba, a small island in the Caribbean with one major town where most of the 110,000 population lives. During my week there, the churches organized a March for Jesus through the main streets. They had decided it would be a great statement of unity to march around the city, holding banners and singing songs about Jesus.
I remember standing by the side of the road as hundreds of people marched through the streets. They all wore red T-shirts, sang the same songs, marched on the same beat and carried the same smiles on their faces. I guess their goal was to show the love of Jesus through these efforts, in hopes that others would be attracted to this display of “happiness and joy.”
Now, I have no doubt that these people marched with a pure heart and an upright motivation. Yet, something was terribly off as I watched. It seemed so forced. Fake. It felt like it lacked authenticity. Their all walking, singing and smiling a certain way appeared to have the opposite effect of what they were trying to accomplish. The random bystander on the street was not attracted by their behavior. In fact, they seemed uncomfortable and often looked away in hopes that nobody would hand them one of those balloons or tracts they were carrying.
Suddenly, it hit me. God is not looking for uniformity! He’s looking for diversity. Instead of trying to have us all do the same thing, he wants us all to start doing something different!
This was a real eye-opener for me. For so long, I was taught that true unity was created through uniformity. In that moment on Aruba, I started to see the difference between the two. I realized that the opposite is true. True unity is not accomplished through uniformity; it is accomplished through diversity. But diversity will only manifest fully if each of us find our lane.
Pursue innovation, not optimization
So let me ask you again: What is your gift? What is your message? What is your unique value proposition? What is your lane? Who are you called to be? Who are you called to?
In Joel 2:7-8 (NKJV) we read how “they run like mighty men, they climb the wall like men of war; everyone marches in formation, and they do not break ranks. They do not push one another; everyone marches in his own column.” This describes the army of the Lord the way it is intended to be. No one breaks rank. Nobody pushes one another. Everyone is in his or her own lane, doing their own unique thing, without competing. And in doing so, they are one.
Unity is the result of each individual finding their own place within the army. No rank is the same. No position is equal. It’s uniquely designed for each individual to march. And as we march in that unique, authentic way, we become one.
We don’t tend to promote this in our ministries and churches. More often than not, we operate in wineskins, structures and leadership models that don’t facilitate the kind of environment where such identification can take place.
In fact, most influencers model their strategy after other successful influencers—especially in the church and ministry world. This isn’t a bad thing; however, innovation is essential if we’re going to differentiate ourselves. God is an innovator. When he speaks, he creates things that have never been created. His desire is to do something new, not something that has already been done.
How do I know that? In Isaiah 43:18-19 (NKJV) he says: “Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.”
God declares through Isaiah that he will do something new. But to see that new things spring forth we have to forget “the former things” because they keep us from innovating. It’s easy to look at past successes of other people and model what we do after them. That’s not innovation. We call that optimization.
When we read scriptures like the one in Isaiah, we tend to mystify the “new thing” God is about to do. We think of it as something intangible—unknowable. In reality, it’s far simpler. If we truly believe we’re created uniquely by divine design, all we have to do is to become exactly who God created us to be. Then, by God’s definition, we are innovators.
If nobody is exactly like me, and I become who God intends me to be, I’m bringing something new to the table. I’m bringing something that nobody, past or future, has brought or will ever bring to the table. God does a new thing through us when we become who he created us to be. It’s as simple as that.
For decades, athletes from all over the world tried to optimize their high jump skills to increase their results. They used the barrel-roll technique as their default method. Then, in 1968, Dick Fosbury innovated the sport when he introduced the Fosbury Flop, which literally took the sport to new heights. Dick Fosbury tapped into something unique—something that hadn’t been done.
As believers, we’re called to do the same, to lead, not to follow others’ trends. If we truly believe God created us to be unique, there must be something we can do that’s never been done before in exactly the same way.
Being aware of the process of innovation is incredibly important. While optimization is powerful and beneficial, it’s not going to set us apart. Optimization breeds competition; innovation destroys competition.
Optimization focuses on things like:
- Better technology.
- Better copywriting.
- Better branding.
- Better web design.
- Better customer service and so on.
One of a kind, not second-best
Innovation challenges the very framework in which existing things are executed, to create an entirely new framework. Jesus talked about this in Luke 7:28 (NKJV): “For I say to you, among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”
This verse is fascinating to me! It speaks about two paradigms: Those born of women and those in the kingdom of God. Jesus contrasts these two “worlds” and shows us the difference between them.
In his first example, he speaks about a system in which there can be only one who is the greatest. The culture in this environment is one of competition. John is already the greatest within that category. No one can usurp that No. 1 position. Imagine being in an environment like that. You put in effort and hard work, all the while knowing you can never become the greatest. You’ll have to settle for second place at best. How discouraging!
Yet in our ministries and churches, we tend to do exactly the same thing the disciples did. We find the greatest one and model our ministries accordingly. We look at the latest big name and make their ministry model the ultimate goal for our ministry. We think, If I can do half as well as them, then I’ll be doing great.
We do injustice to ourselves (and God) by thinking like this. It is so shallow. This mentality creates hierarchy and ungodly competition. It keeps us mediocre. We focus on earning more points on the scoreboard, not realizing that the scoreboard we’re looking at is referencing how we rank in a world of mediocrity. The best thing that can happen to us within that “system” is that we become the best mediocre versions of ourselves that we can be.
Personally, I would like to be part of the other world Jesus discusses: the world of the kingdom. This world is much, much bigger. In this world, even the smallest person is bigger than the winner in the other world.
By unique, authentic, divine design we all are created different. We are endowed with gifts that have been given to us and to nobody else. Therefore, I need to play a role in the earth that only I can play. Only I can dominate my category, because, by definition, nobody else fits my category. I am one of a kind!
God’s kingdom is created to facilitate extreme diversification. Instead of being a vertical hierarchy, it is organized horizontally. This model requires a different way of thinking. Once we become who we are supposed to be in his image, we automatically trump the greatest winners in the inferior carnal world. Isn’t that amazing? It’s actually simple. Yet, at the same time, we tend to default back to modeling ourselves according to templates delivered to us by “the greatest.”
As long as we try to model ourselves after others, we miss the mark.
This article was extracted from Issue 1 of Inspire Magazine (Spring 2021). Learn how to get your copy of Inspire Magazine.