To Christians who think they have to be carbon copies of someone else, Mark Batterson wants to tell them: stop trying to be someone else and discover who God made you to be.
"I think a lot of Christians feel like they have to be more like Billy Graham or Mother Teresa. The truth is you have to be more like you, like the person God has uniquely created you to be," Batterson, pastor of the National Community Church (more popularly known as "the theater church"), in Washington D.C., told The Christian Post.
"When you come to understand that then that's pretty exciting," he said. "The fact that there has never been and never will be anyone like you is not a testament to you but a testament to the God who created you."
In his thoughtful new book, Soulprint: Discovering Your Divine Destiny, Batterson takes readers on a journey to help them unravel what he calls a "soulprint."
Just like no two finger prints are alike, he makes a case that each person has a unique "soulprint" which functions like spiritual DNA in hardwiring them to live out a unique God-given identity and destiny.
"It's who God has destined you to become from the inside out," writes Batterson in his fifth book. "Not unlike your genetic code that programs your physical anatomy, your soulprint hardwires your true identity and true destiny."
Using David's life and his own as a framework, Batterson reveals how God uses circumstances –especially the darkest, most private, and most embarrassing ones – to chisel us into a reflection of His image.
By looking in retrospect with God's eyes, readers can see that their disadvantages actually honed unique talents and gifts like David who was trained to defeat Goliath while he was still a simple shepherd boy protecting his flock.
"Every past experience is preparation for some future opportunity," writes Batterson.
When it comes to the past, he says we can either let the complications or mistakes, from death to divorce, rule our identity or instead we can choose to set them up as "lifesymbols" that mark our spiritual milestones. All it takes is having "holy hindsight" to interpret experiences, whether positive or negative, as sources of empowerment.
He said his favorite chapter of the book is "Crags of the Wild Goats," in which David demonstrates epic integrity by deciding against killing Saul in the shadows of the cave even when the opportunity and circumstances appeared right.
There are no cutting corners in finding your God-given destiny, according to Batterson. He said too often our culture celebrates people with for good looks, athletic talent or entertaining abilities, but integrity –doing what is right when no one is looking –goes neglected.
"Integrity is a good example of something we need to celebrate. It may not get celebrated in our culture but we need to make sure it gets celebrated in our churches so it's something people aspire to even more than the external traffic to success," said Batterson.
The 154-page book is not all serious talk. Batterson knows how to laugh at himself as he recounts his experiences throughout the book, from his ordination interview to the time a seven-member band performed for an audience of four people at his church.
Writing in his trademark conversational style, he applies the story of David's life not just for 20-year-olds looking for a "self-help" book that will get them jumpstarted in life, but to people who might feel they're already at the tail end of self-discovery process.
In one chapter of the book, Batterson explains how David didn't let his sins and mistakes of adultery and murder define his present or future.
"You would think that David wouldn't have much of a future in God's purposes but the Scripture said that he is a man after God's own heart," remarked Batterson. "What happens is that we feel our mistakes disqualify us from the plan of God the grace of God. But change is the byproduct of the genuine repentance. You have to genuinely confess your sins and repent. If you do that, you come to terms with the fact that you can't change your past but you can change your future."
"If you are child of God then the grace of God defines you, not the mistakes you've made," he continued. "It sure seems to me that God did some of his best work with those who honestly almost seemed like they made some irredeemable mistakes."
One thing Batterson is clear about in his writing is that we cannot truly find out who we are until we know who God is. This is not a journey of self-discovery that we take with God tagging along, but it's a path that leads to God. The conclusion of the winding trail is to bring glory to God through a one-of-a-kind life of worship and legacy.
"No one can worship God like me or for me," said Batterson. "When people begin to understand that then they will take responsibility for the uniqueness given to them."