Over six years ago, I attended a conference in Tampa, Florida. This conference was made up of 2000 pastors and ministry leaders from churches all around the world. While there, I went to a seminar led by two pastors, one from Pittsburgh and one from Cleveland. Being a diehard Pittsburgh sports fan, I wondered if anything good could come from a Cleveland guy, let alone a Cleveland pastor (sarcasm intended).
Toward the end of the seminar, they challenged us with this question, “If your church doors permanently closed on a Monday morning, would the community notice?” I was really rocked by that question. At the time, we were doing some great things in our community, but I honestly could not answer that question with a “yes.”
Since that seminar, our church has purposed to be more intentional in our efforts to serve our community. Personally though, I feel that God has been using that question in a different way. I keep thinking about me – more importantly, what God requires of me.
Churches talk a lot about their identity, what their purpose is, the reason for their existence. If the church is defined as the people that attend, then shouldn't the focus on the identity of the people be of greater concern?
I love the game of basketball and love to watch it. I probably enjoy the college game more than the pros, but I do continue to follow my favorite team, the Los Angeles Lakers. They have been my favorite since I was nine years old (That’s a story for another time.). As with so many across the world, I was shocked to hear the news that Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Gianna, were killed in a helicopter crash.
My heart breaks for the families of the other seven as well: John Altobelli, his wife Keri, and daughter Alyssa; mother and daughter, Sarah and Payton Chester; Christina Mauser; and pilot Ara Zobayan. All of these people were described as incredible husbands, fathers, wives, mothers, daughters, brothers, and sisters. They were loving and full of life. One of them was considered to be the top five or ten basketball player of all time.
This tragedy, along with many other circumstances, has caused me to focus more and more on my identity. I want to be considered a great husband and dad. I love the thought of being remembered one day as a good friend, someone who cared about people.
As a Christian though, that’s not what ultimately defines me. I am a son of the Most High God. I have been saved, through grace, because Jesus died and rose again for me.
God, the Father, fully loves me, fully values me, fully accepts me, has fully forgiven me, and because of all that, I am fully capable through His strength to be free from all strongholds the enemy tries to entrap me in.
John 8:36 says, “So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.” Romans 8:1-2 says, “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”
That is my identity. That is what I want to be remembered for. How about you?