Show Me Your I.D.
It is apparent to me that the Church is going through an identity crisis of epic proportion -- both as an institution and as a group of believers.
I'll save the former for another blog post because in this post, I'd like to dialogue about the identity crisis of the latter.
As mentioned in recent posts, I have been going through my own personal identity crisis and wilderness experience, which I have started writing about and will continue to write about.
In the last few years, I have wrestled with how to address and give voice to the warning flags I feel compelled to raise, yet not lecture or alienate people whom I deeply love and with whom I have relationship.
And so I have stayed quiet for the most part...at least publicly. After receiving a fair amount of push back for speaking out, I retreated inward and saved these conversations with my trusted few and Twitter. To be honest, it's felt lonely at times because I have not heard a lot of other voices speaking out about these topics.
God is a lot of things, but one of my favorite things about Him is that He's never late. He's a superb Time-Keeper and the way that He brings about events and people never ceases to amaze. And lately, He has been bringing other voices into my life who are speaking the same message and it's been so full of Life for me.
I believe the groundswell of like-minded believers who long to see the Kingdom be reflected on earth as it is in heaven is beginning. The tide is turning and the addled, ailing, complacent, comfortable Church is starting to stir from her sickbed to take her place as a mother to those most vulnerable and hurting, to bind the wounds of the broken-hearted, stand up for the oppressed and speak out against those who would use Jesus as a shield for the religious corruption and false-piety.
I could not be more thrilled or cheered to see this taking place in people who have been disenfranchised with the Church and have removed themselves from the institution for the sake of their own spiritual health and wellness. Many have been lonely orphans who have been watching, waiting and prayerfully ushering in this change. They have not ceased in their love for Christ and the Kingdom. They have prayed fervently and worked tirelessly to be Jesus in a broken world.
I am also equally thrilled to see those who have been lulled to a pacified, sleepy state in their Sunday morning pew begin to shake off lethargy and start to rise to find their place in lock stop with Jesus.
What is the reason for this Shift?
I believe that Believers are hearing the Spirit's call to authenticity. I also believe they are yearning for a greater level of walking in Kingdom identity and authority.
These last two are absolutely key.
They go hand in hand in Kingdom-living. Both are vitally important for the Believer to understand and operate within. (I feel like they both warrant their own post, so I'll save Authority for another post.)
i d e n t i t y
a: sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
b: sameness in all that constitutes the objective reality of a thing: oneness
c: the distinguishing character or personality of an individual: individuality
Merriam-Webster ranks this word in the top 10% of "popular words."
I find this to be fascinating. And the reason I believe it's so popular is because people are compelled to understand who they are. There are personality tests galore. People are trying to "find their tribe." We are desperately trying to figure out what and who we are and how we both relate to and matter in this world.
This is no different for the Believer today.
As many sit in their pew or folding chair week after week, they start to wonder, "what am I doing here on earth? What's my individual purpose? What's my purpose in this gathering of Believers and do I have one? If not, why? What am I supposed to be doing here on the earth? Am I fulfilling that?"
Much like I believe today's Church and churches are going through an identity crisis, so is the individual Believer. We understand that there is a missing component and we desperately want to know what and where to find it.
It is my opinion that the missing component is our understanding of who we are in the Kingdom. We understand who we are in the collective Church (see definition B above). We understand that we adhere to the teachings of Christ and identify with fellow believers in a general way about what that entails (although I could argue we are missing the forest for a couple of trees -- again, another post for another day). We know where and to whom we belong, or maybe we understand where we do not.
However, beyond that understanding, we are searching for what would describe definition C above -- understanding exactly how God designed us. What characteristics and personality traits He instilled in us before we were ever born. The things that get us out of bed every morning and motivates us to keep going when we want to quit.
I believe God's people are longing to understand His heart and intention for each one of us -- that not only did He make us a specific way, He delights in us because of it, not in spite of it. The very characteristic or issue that has brought you the most pain in your life (being misunderstood or censured by people, has caused breakups or brokenness with others) was placed in you by God Himself.
I'm not saying that God intended for you to be hurt or perhaps even hurt others with a personality trait, but the seed of that thing was placed in you for a reason to steward and bring to health so that you can work alongside of His son to bring healing and wholeness to a world who desperately needs what you carry inside.
Rather than be disappointed by it or by you, He is championing you to dig in and discover exactly who He designed (with great intentionality) you to be and to be all of it. Much the way I champion my own children as they grow and mature in understanding of their own thoughts, motives, giftings, and strengths, I believe it thrills Papa God's heart even more so to see His children walking and moving in the wholeness of their Divine purpose and destiny.
The false humility that has permeated many Believers that looks like being meek and humble and not thinking very highly or ourselves (or others) in the kingdom has resulted in a generation of Believers who have bought the lie that they have nothing worthy or good to contribute to the Kingdom and have ignored the invitation to partner with Jesus and willfully abdicated it to the paid staff of the Church.
And then we wonder why we feel weak, powerless and apathetic.
What I long to see for every Believer is in definition A above:
a: sameness of essential or generic character in different instances
This "sameness" of who you are does not change from a body of believers on Sunday to a work or school day the following day. It does not change or diminish in the dentist chair, the stadium seat or on social media. It literally oozes out of everything you do and all that you are. People sense it when you enter a room. They are drawn to it. They call it forth from you.
This knowing and understanding of your identity to your very core brings both and intoxicating joy and incredible freedom.
When you are living daily in freedom because you know to the core who you are and who you are not, you understand a few things:
- You do not have to scrabble with other Believers for scraps from God's table because you understand you are being given your slice of the pie. And actually, you understand it's not just a slice, you get your whole pie -- created just for you...just the way you like it.
- You don't have to operate out of envy over what has been given to another person because you have been given amazing gifts that only you can open and use. This means you can champion and encourage others to be all they were meant to be, because you are enough and you have been given all you need.
- You do not have to fear "the other" (refugees, immigrants, People of Color) taking more than you think they should get because "they have not earned it/don't deserve it/won't appreciate it/do not belong here/are not worthy and as deserving as I am". You understand that all of this is a gift and none of us got to choose our country of origin or level of ability and accessibility to wealth and comfort. You also understand bullet points one and two and therefore, you do not operate out of scarcity mentality.
- You do not have to arm yourself with rhetoric, talking points, internet memes, religious jargon, or party lines because you understand you belong to a Kingdom-minded community whose purpose is bring Heaven to earth so the way you view people, government and institutions is through a completely different lens. You do not have to operate out of the "rat race" that can be so ensnaring and consuming.
If you are on a quest to understand your identity, I will be posting about what I have been doing to home in on my spiritual identity and operate out of that understanding.
If you are navigating through this already, I'd love to hear what you have been learning through the process and any insights you may have in helping people find their voice and identity.
If you are interested in hearing from other voices from this groundswell of challenging hope, here are few you may enjoy:
Rachel Held Evans
Kyle J. Howard