The Church Is
A little over three years ago, while traveling with my oldest son Samuel to visit friends in Uganda, I was struck by the thought that not everyone in our world or even in our church has a clear sense of our core identity as a church.
Our vision makes it very clear what we do. We form biblically functioning communities that reach lost people, connect in Christ-centered relationships, teach truth, serve others, and worship God. That is what we do. It is clear. It is anchored in Scripture. It is actionable. It is not, however, a full picture of who we are. You can certainly make some pretty strong inferences about who we are based on what we we do, but I felt like it would be important for us as a church family to spend time deeply engaging with our identity as a church.
The reality (a reality rich with opportunity) is that at our time and place in history there is not a basic reliable cultural understanding of what a church is. The greater Orlando area alone ranks amongst the least churched cities in our country, which means that the majority of people we encounter every day don’t have a clear sense of what a church community is. If we are to be effective in being a light in our city, we had better be very well grounded in who we are, in our identity as a church. In other words, we must be intentional in remembering who we are, both for our sakes and for the good of those who are not yet included.
So, for the last two and a half years we have being seeking to deeply understand the identity of the church as people devoted to God, in community, on mission, for God’s glory.
Reflecting on the focus of this extended season I am reminded of two things.
It is not about us. Who we are as a church (and as individuals for that matter) is not first about who we are, but rather is about who God is. He is Creator, Sustainer, and ultimately Savior. It is his Kingdom in which we are citizens. We are entirely wrapped up in him as the object of our devotion and as worthy of our worship.
It includes us. Though we are not the center, we are included. We are valued, we are loved, and we are invited to be both transformed and agents of transformation. By God’s grace, we are not only saved from sin and death, but we are saved for a purpose. Grace means we don’t sit on the sidelines. Grace means our lives matter here and now.
There is great freedom in those two realities. There is freedom in knowing that our worth is rooted in our Creator and that our work is not necessary to prove anything. After all, he is the center of attention. As we move in community and engage in mission, we are not doing so to justify our value but rather we are living in the reality of our value. When our identity begins and ends in the one who gave us life, we have the freedom and ability to fully become the church Jesus envisioned when he gave mission to the rag tag community of those he called disciples.