Unity in identity1
We have recently come through a great deal of changes as a local body of believers. Now, many of us may feel like we are standing in a fog bank waiting for it to clear so that we can see the terrain ahead. For long-time members, as well as those new to our fellowship, there is a question of church identity. Who are we? The answer should be that we are a church that exalts Christ and works alongside one another in love, for the sake of the Kingdom. But, that textbook answer can seem hollow and trite until we actually see it carried out over a span of time.
Be encouraged my friends. Isaiah 58 describes a person who fasts and seeks God and is obedient to God's ways and methods, saying, “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily…” None of us like big question marks hanging in our futures, but we all have them. That is all the more reason to put our trust in the only person who does not have any question marks - Jesus Christ!
As we live our lives in constant change, we must realize that we need the constancy of Christ. People die, move, change. Jobs dissolve, morph, and change. Our possessions break or are lost. Local churches, too, are in flux with people coming and going, and with the victories and moral failings of their leaders--all affecting the dynamics of church life. What happens to churches or individuals who are unified around the building, the pastor, their traditions, or each other? What happens to these sheep when the inevitable waves of change come? 1 Corinthians 1:12-13 says "What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"
Our identity is not in the people we have always known, not in the pastor, not in the building but in Christ Himself. And, if Christ is what unifies us, then we are able to ride the waves of change.
Practically speaking how do we find this unity? Colossians 3:14 says "And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony." This "genuine" biblical love (without wax), is a love that is concerned more for the other person than ourselves, a love that is concerned about conforming to the image of Christ. As we love one another with this kind of love, we will grow in the unity we all long for… a unity that is rooted in our identity in Christ. We will become what Paul described as completing his joy, a church “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind." (Philippians 2:2)
Let's not pretend that life isn’t difficult at times, that is hasn’t been painful to see people leave, or that changes haven’t made us nervous. Let’s not pretend that leaving another fellowship to join with West Oaks wasn’t painful or that it’s easy finding your place in a new congregation. Now, more than ever, we need to practice sincere love and take the time to bond and get to know each other, get involved in each other's lives.
I am seeing just such a love in our body, and it excites me. I see the rays of sunshine racing across the field to lift our spirits and bring us together in unity. I hope you do, too. We have many groups coming together in this endeavor, and we are not exactly like any particular church our various members have come from. Together, we are becoming our own unique mix of methods, preferences, and personality. The one strand that holds all of this together? Well you should be able to answer that.