Things I Think

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9 Responses

  1. Jean says:

    Michael,

    I’m glad you wrote on the issue of identity. I think it is a timely recognition of an important church issue, and since it is timely, it presents the church with a great opportunity.

    People do struggle with identity (and it’s related: self-esteem). In vogue in secular culture and in liberal Christianity is the desire to have one’s self-conception of identity affirmed, authorized and protected. We see this socially, as well as politically and morally.

    The challenge that I see for churches is that people want to import their personal identity (whatever they think or feel it is) into the church, so that their identity supplements or is supplemented by Christ. Thus, there are dozens of adjectives that come before “Christian” in use.

    The opportunity I see for churches is to offer people an identity which is well pleasing to God the Father. This is an identity that matters and gives people God’s favor, His gifts, His love, freedom and life (here and into eternity). An identity in Christ conveys self-esteem and a good conscience before God and men. It comes as a gift; we can’t earn it, work for it, we don’t deserve it, and we can’t deny it to anyone, for it is not ours but Christ’s. Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, so His identity doesn’t change, and since it’s perfect, it needs no changing.

    I wonder if it’s reception by grace through faith makes identity in Christ seem insignificant or of low worth to many people today. So many people want to adorn it with their self-conceived identities. It’s He or me, but never a mash up of the two. I think John the Baptist said it best…

  2. Em says:

    If by grace through faith makes identity in Christ of low worth, wouldn’t it be wise to wonder if this unspeakable gift is understood, understood well enough to be received?
    If it isn’t treasured…. ? …. 🙆

    Amen to Michael’s thinking… Amen indeed… and for a kid who had the rug pulled out from under him, he is a pretty strong personality now…. or so it seems to me. 😇

  3. Owen says:

    This post strikes a chord for me as well – growing up I had serious identity / self esteem issues. After I left home, the church I attended (Lutheran) fed my insecurities with demands for strict adherence to their code. My identity in the kingdom was directly related to how many boxes I checked off on their list.
    I have to agree with the last paragraph of Michael’s post, in that I think the church’s spiritual weakness has a lot to do with identity in Christ.

    To borrow Jean’s words,
    “The opportunity I see for churches is to offer people an identity which is well pleasing to God the Father. This is an identity that matters and gives people God’s favor, His gifts, His love, freedom and life (here and into eternity). An identity in Christ conveys self-esteem and a good conscience before God and men. ”
    When it is finally settled within the mind and heart that you are redeemed, loved, free, etc…. you can stop striving to fill your own needs.
    At least, that was the turning point for me.

  4. Michael says:

    If we don’t know who we are, we will never know what we’ve been called to be…

  5. Jtk says:

    A troubled member of our church left a few years ago.

    I never spoke ill of him, he never spoke ill of us, I reached out via email, we met, I asked if there’s anything we did wrong, in humility….

    And a complete surprise, he said “nothing.”

    He came back to our church, and was received happily.

    It has been life-changingly beautiful!

    May we embrace the challenging individuals, and may the prodigals come home!

  6. Linnea says:

    Jtk…great story! Thanks for sharing

  7. Emily says:

    #4. This is one of the biggest issues to me. So much emphasis of results/numbers/success–the church has become a corporation, a business. It was NEVER intended to be monetized and organized that way. Also, what I (and others) have referred to as the “cult of personality.” The identity of so many churches is unfortunately founded on the identity of the pastor/leadership, NOT Christ. It becomes a sort of hero worship, devoid of actual godliness. People talk with far more reverence about their “pastor” and “their church” than they do about God Himself! Of course, this was an issue even back in the Early Church. Paul talks about it in I Corinthians 3:4-7, “For when one says, “I follow Paul,” and another, “I follow Apollos,” are you not being merely human? What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” We are always to be following Christ. Looking to Him! But far too often, we devolve into looking at each other and following each other. We start caring about pleasing men, more than God. It leads to very cult-like churches which play to their fan base, but there is very little actual spiritual growth and true fellowship occurring, and it is not good. It becomes a great show–if you’re into that sort of thing–but little more…

  8. Em says:

    Emily, good observations
    This is a good place to air and work on these problems, too

  9. Jerod says:

    Thanks for not tickling ears.

    Definitely not a prophecy update.

    I hope your hands feel better.

    My wife and I went through something similiar in our first years as a married couple. We had to realize (have to still) that our identity is in God’s Son through the gift of faith, not in each other. This is a good call to recognize the groupthink that is becoming the echo chamber of churches.

    So thanks for not tickling ears. Give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and give unto God what is God’s. Namely, ourselves.

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