Many Christians today are facing an enormous crisis in their identity. Who are we, exactly? Believers? Followers? Disciples? Saved? Children? The short answer is yes, we are all those. However, there are aspects of the Christian identity that should translate into the Christian mission that are missing in most Christians today. These identities, which define our daily living much more than our church attending, are timeless in their relevance. Culture doesn't matter if we are embracing these identities. And, if we successfully embrace them, the crisis will be over.
#1 - Repeat After Me ... "Jesus shares His authority and power with me"
Somehow, we have adapted a false identity of "helpers of Jesus." We believe He is at work and yes, He has all the power and authority, but we don't accept that for ourselves. Jesus gathered His disciples and gave them power and authority because it was His to give. You can't do anything worth while for the Kingdom without Jesus' power and authority. Perhaps we've dropped this critical point of our identity because we have no desire to be accountable to Jesus. If we don't take up the authority and power given to us, then we certainly can't be blamed for not using it? Not true. There's a reason this power and authority is given, which leads us to number two...
#2 - Repeat After Me ... "I have been called to heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons"
Here we find conditions of the human race that are true in any nation, language and/or culture. People are sick. People die. People are diseased with leprosy, and people are demonized. And you are called to do something about this. This has never changed. How did we lose this? We gather and celebrate around the sacraments and that is wonderful and glorious, but while we're worshiping inside the walls, people are dying outside our walls. Jesus sends, not just gathers. He wants you to go with power and authority and do all of these things. If you and I take up this part of our identity, we will see fulfillment in ministry that far outweighs getting an "attaboy" for planning a church dinner. Jesus has never modified the job description of His disciples ... it's still the same.
#3 - Repeat After Me ... "I live for the honor of Jesus and His Kingdom"
You are not living for yourself anymore ... not even in relation to your church. The false identity many Christians have taken up is that we do Jesus some kind of favor by "accepting him" like a friend request on FaceBook, then take time to shop for a church and turn our nose up at many until we find one that serves us well. (Insert LOUD gameshow buzzer sound here) STOP. No. Jesus did you an incredible "favor" (if you will) by dying for you. When you get this, you will find that your entire life is surrendered into His will. You will no longer care about your own honor or reputation, you will only care about Jesus' honor and reputation. You will not care about establishing your own future, you will burn passionately to see His Kingdom come to earth through your voice and hands. You have exchanged personal honor for Kingdom honor. You are to bring honor to Jesus!
#4 - Repeat After Me ... "I have keys in my pocket that others don't have"
Jesus gave His disciples the "keys of the Kingdom." You and I are included in this gift if we will hold out our hands and receive them. Again, this comes with accountability, power and authority. Wherever you bind, things are bound... wherever you loose, things are released. Wherever there are chains of bondage, you have the keys no one else has to free the captive. While churches are chasing relevance, this identity works in any nation, language and culture. The name of Jesus is powerful no matter what kind of packaging it's in.
#5 - Repeat After Me ... "Jesus is my focus ... everything else is just stuff."
You don't chase the world or its glitter and glamor. They are not shiny anymore. You chase hard after Jesus... period. You do not listen to the voices of the world. They are meaningless. You listen hard for the voice of Jesus ... period. You do not engage in the fads of the world. They are exhausting. You focus on the timeless things of Jesus... period.
It's time to exchange your current church identity for the identity Jesus chose for you from the beginning. Stop trying to be relevant and be obedient to the original mission. it just works.
Brett Heintzman is passionate about the spiritual formation of God's people. These writings are designed to draw us close to God and to help us live out of the riches of His presence. It's all about being in the world but not of the world.