Copying what other leaders have done or what seems to be currently working for others can be a trap when it comes to responding to God’s awakening call on our lives. This trap is a bit harder to identify and describe. When I say copy, I’m not talking about plagiarism or stealing people’s ideas and taking credit for them as our own. No, we need to talk about something much more subtle and dangerous.
Copying can mean going along with the status quo, choosing to emulate others. It’s about trying to be or do that which has brought success to others, as opposed to allowing God to birth what He has placed deep inside of you. It actually goes beyond what we do into who we really are and the why we do certain things, revealing our values and motives.
A great example of this comes from the life of David. We all know that as a young leader, he goes out to fight Goliath. In 1 Samuel 17:38-39, right before David is about to go fight, Saul tries to give him his armor:
“So Saul clothed David with his armor, and he put a bronze helmet on his head; he also clothed him with a coat of mail. David fastened his sword to his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. And David said to Saul, ‘I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.’ So David took them off.” - 1 Samuel 17:38-39
Did you catch what David says here? “I cannot walk with these, for I have not tested them.” It was a great honor to be given the king’s armor, but David knew it wouldn’t work to take on another’s identity. He would be putting on something that he himself had no experience with. The key to David’s greatness was being David, whether others thought he belonged in that battle or not. His confidence could only be rooted in being who God had taught and shaped him to be, regardless of the context and its needs. That was the only way it could work. The story would have ended very differently if David went into battle with Saul’s armor.
We have too many leaders today simply copying what they see in other leaders. There’s a big difference between admiring, respecting others, and seeking to copy emulate their very characteristics. If we simply copy them because what they’re doing has had success, we’re neglecting the call of God on our own lives and that each of us have been fearfully and wonderfully made. As followers of Jesus, we have the single greatest message of hope and transformation to the world around us: our lives being changed. God is raising up authentic followers who are willing to display an authentic faith —not one in need of copying what others are doing. If we are created in the image of God, we have to believe that we carry the solution to some of the greatest needs, voids, and hopeless situations around us. We have too many leaders today simply copying what they see in other leaders.
God has uniquely created us for good works. As leaders, this is pretty significant. Psalm says this:
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed. And in Your book they all were written, the days fashioned for me when as yet there were none of them. - Psalm 139:13-16
I fear that much of our valuable time as leaders is wasted on copying what we know, instead of creating new answers for that which we don’t know. If we’re to genuinely reach our cities, see change in society, and transform culture, then we need a wide range of godly anointed leaders who don’t all look the same. We need businessmen and women, actors, doctors, athletes, teachers, scientists, and pastors to all be filled with the Spirit of God, seeking Him for solutions and contending for life right where God has given them a platform and influence. I firmly believe that a significant component of the decay of the society around us is due to the fact that so much of the Christian community seeks to look like all the other parts, as opposed to birth new expressions of the faith.Much of our time as leaders is wasted on copying what we know, instead of creating solutions for what we don’t know.
My need for approval has brought with it the temptation to copy what I know or see around me. As I’ve gradually begun to identify and accept who God has made me to be and as I’ve worked my way through this Awakening Transition, I’ve grown in my understanding of who it is that God has created me to be and I’ve accepted His challenge of clarifying what is it God has designed for me to create!
If you spend your days copying what works for others, then you won’t have the time to invest in creating what God has destined for you to create. It’s hard to do both and to do them as acts of authentic worship to our King. I say let’s awaken to the call to be a part of creating something that takes time, expresses our unique identity, and shows us to be image bearers of our creator God. Spending our days copying what works for others, means we won’t have the time to invest in what God has destined you to create.
This was written for the book “Awakening” by Terry B. Walling. You can check it out here.