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Thursday, July 21, 2011

Building Identity: Part 8 of 8

Identity in the Church: Community

What is our community identity?  Many moons ago, when my weeks were distinguished by my Pee Wee soccer schedules, my mom brought us, shin guards and all, to prayer meetings to plant a church that we didn’t have to drive an hour to.  You should worship in your own community, she said.  In college, I was part of a budding church called Liberti that still calls itself “a church for the city.”  The theme came up again last year when a group I was in did a Tim Keller study on living out the gospel in our cities.  And now, my latest church is a west coast plant of Keller’s Redeemer in New York City, so each week I hear the familiar catch phrase, “in the city, for the city.”  Maybe someone is trying to tell me something.

Or perhaps it’s just a resurgence of what the church was meant to be: local, on-the-ground living.  The great part about picking the neighborhood congregation is that you get un-gentrified really fast.  In a city you can see this played out most colorfully, but the point is the same everywhere: heaven is going to be a funky, diverse place.  In community, we can start to look more like that now, finding our similarities in Christ where before we’d have seen differences in our educations, languages, and hairstyles.

When our church identity is intertwined with our role in the community, we build intentional relationships.  Maybe you want to reach out to that crazy dude playing checkers on the corner, but he ends up teaching you something too.  Maybe your kids see that dude as more than background noise when they see you see him as more.  You might get to play pied piper one day, leading a trail of neighborhood kids to VBS, or you might just join the regulars at happy hour and meet your neighbors where they are.  We change the world one person at a time.  Local, on-the-ground living.

There’s a lot to this identity thing, and in eight posts we've only begun to explore it.  But here’s one thought to take from this series: in putting yourself out there as a Christian, a spouse, a parent, a pencil sharpener, a book-reading piece of tinder, and a neighborhood pied piper, there won’t be too much room to worry about what else the whole world is expecting of you.  You might discover a very full you.

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