Stolen Identity…or Maybe Just Misplaced

“What is the church?” is a prevalent question.

Within that phrase are the questions of what is the church supposed to be? what is the ideal model or structure? what is the best way to function as a church? These questions have been and will likely continue to be enthusiastically debated and discussed.

There is, however, a deeper underlying question…

“As the people of God, who are we?”

Herein lies the importance of rediscovering a theology of the kingdom of God, of awakening to an understanding of who we are as God’s people.

Regrettably, it is common for church people to view the kingdom as a vague unknowable mystery or as something relegated to the future. The present reality and nature of the kingdom of God has mostly not been understood.

However, if the very gospel that Jesus gave us is the gospel of the kingdom of God, and the church has not understood the kingdom, then what the heck have we been doing for all these years?!

Instead our identity has been shaped by organizations and denominations, and we have become much more comfortable with the question, “what church do you go to?” than the question, “what is the kingdom of God?”

It is because of a lack of understanding of the kingdom that we have not understood our identity as a people. We do not know where to place ourselves in God’s story.

This idea of remembering and rediscovering our identity is a recurring theme in emerging/missional conversations. It is the underlying message of Alan Hirsch’s book, The Forgotten Way.

Brother Maynard talks about remembering in answer to the question, “What would be the most important thing for a people living in exile?” He comes up with these three important points:

  • They must remember who they are, and who their people are.
  • They must remember what they have been promised.
  • They must remember where their home is.

With our loss of identity, we also lost our true purpose. The entire concept of being missional must flow out of an understanding of the kingdom of God. Our missional purpose and identity is rooted in knowing our role and place within the kingdom.

Robbymac, in his article Chrysalis, explains it like this:

“The Jewish understanding of “salvation” was a holistic shalom, and our understanding of the in-breaking Kingdom needs to likewise be holistic – preaching the good news, caring for the poor and marginalized, and listening for the voice of the Father as He directs and empowers us by His Holy Spirit. Anything less would not reflect the fullness of the Kingdom that Jesus was announcing.”

The point is not whether we adopt the labels of emerging, missional, post-missional, or any other brand. The point is that we rediscover who we are as the people of God, that we learn what it means to be agents of His kingdom.

We are to be kingdom people wherever we are, looking at every day and every opportunity as an opportunity and a kingdom moment. The love and purpose of God is our motivation, His desire for shalom.

If we truly understand our identity, it impacts how we live and interact with others. We become agents of God’s grace, His love, the power of His life, and we understand better how to participate in His kingdom life on this earth.

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10 thoughts on “Stolen Identity…or Maybe Just Misplaced

  1. Yes, and I find the places I’m challenged in living out the life of the Kingdom are so often the simple routines of life: what I buy, who I spend time with. They are issues not often talked about in the “where do you go to church” model.

  2. Great start to what I hope will be a series, Grace. One of the things I had to do before being able to live a kingdom mindset was to identify who the King was.

    Of course, the easy answer is “well…God is the King. That’s settled. Now let’s get down to the business of running His Kingdom for Him.”

    Is He an active agent or just a figurehead? Of course, a figurehead doesn’t even need to exist–just a convenient tool to add significance to our own ideas.

  3. I enjoyed this post. As new believer I was always been intrigued by the Kingdom of God. What is it and how do we, as Kingdom people live in this Kingdom and express this Kingdom to the world around us?

  4. Kevin, that’s what the Holy Spirit does. As we participate with the Spirit we participate in the Kingdom the Spirit brings. Where the Spirit is, there is the Kingdom, for there is God.

    Only the Spirit isn’t limited to the stuff of Pentecostal emphases or churchy worship practices. The Spirit moves broadly and deeply and fluidly in all sorts of ways, inside and outside the church. Feel and respond to the rhythms of the Spirit and you’ll be reflecting and living in the Kingdom.

  5. Hi,
    I visited your Emerging blog a while back and thought I’d drop in on you again. Boy things have changed. Love the new, crisp look.

    I think the key thing standing out here for me is this “The point is not whether we adopt the labels of emerging, missional, post-missional, or any other brand. The point is that we rediscover who we are as the people of God, that we learn what it means to be agents of His kingdom.”

    Until we understand who we are and operate from that point, we can only do a fraction of what God has set aside for us. It’s something that I’m only really just learning.

  6. That was well said Grace…thanks for this post.

    I would add to your great thoughts about identity that there exists a confusion of values. When we look at conversion and transformation as a way to be called out of this world to receive the Kingdom, we are dealing with deep set values that need to be exposed and exchanged. The reality exists that most of our troubles about the church in the West is a result of the co-option of our faith with Western values that conflict with the Kingdom. The unrest before us, I believe, is a gift from God to unsettle our co-option and stoke a new imagination for the Kingdom that rests upon the values implied in the Sermon on the Mount…

  7. Thanks Joel!

    Maria,
    The life of the kingdom happens in those simple routines of life. Faithfulness in the ordinary and sometimes mundane is challenging, but that is where transformation and life occur.

    Bob,
    Great thoughts! Understanding the nature of the king and his kingdom are important in understanding our identity as citizens of the kingdom.

    David,
    I did enjoy reading that post. Thanks for sharing the link.

    Kevin,
    What a great place to be starting as a new believer! You are asking all of the right questions. Those are the things that we, the people of God, should be exploring and pursuing together.

    Patrick,
    Thanks for your response. Following the rhythm of the Spirit should allow us to see the work of the Father. By seeing with His eyes and responding in obedience to His voice, we find opportunities for participation in the kingdom. I really appreciate your emphasis of the Spirit in enabling life in the kingdom.

    bunnygirl,
    Welcome, I’m glad you found me here. Our understanding of God and who we are is and should be a growing revelation. However, it is helpful if we are at least at the right starting point. ;)

    John,
    You bring up a really important point. Understanding the values of the kingdom are essential as citizens in order to reflect the nature of the kingdom we embrace. As you said, within the church (us), there are deeply ingrained mindsets and beliefs that must be addressed.

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