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Who Are We?

August 25, 2015 | Posted by Dominic Rivkin

Who am I? I don’t believe it’s a stretch to say that every human being has asked this classic, existential question and sought the answer in their own way. Rene Descartes asked, and his answer was “Cogito ergo sum” – I think, therefore I am – which placed his identity into the confines of his mind. Of course, 365 years after his death, me thinks he thinks no more, and is therefore… technically not! The actor Charlie Chaplin took the opposite stance from Descartes. Chaplin was once quoted saying, “We think too much and feel too little.” Even with this reversal, we know that Chaplin’s body feels no more and so has, by his own definition, ceased to exist. Still others, like comedian Steven Wright, appear to be downright confused by the question itself. “I have an existential map,” Wright quips, “it has ‘You Are Here’ all over it.”

Our very identity is wrapped in how this question is answered. Clarity in our identity is key, not only for personal but organizational growth and fulfillment. Churches are a people, asking the same question, “Who are we?” Often they’re seeking the answer in the volumes upon volumes of books on organizational and church development. “If we know more, we’ll find that we’ll be more.” While knowledge is certainly not bad, it’s not action – and often our education can rapidly exceed our obedience. So maybe the answer is found in experiential conferences, full of mountaintop of worship and bombastic inspiration from seasoned practitioners. “If we feel more, letting go and letting God take the wheel, we’ll find out who we really are.” We can’t discount feelings, but can we really trust them – especially when the conference binder sits collecting dust while our congregation still flounders. There are indeed “many maps” with many purposes, measures and strategies that could benefit the thoughtful congregation – but never will one work if we do not clearly articulate who we are at our very core. We must find the answer to the question firmly within God’s vision for us, His people.

We could say that the prophet Isaiah pointed to step one in determining both our personal and corporate identity when he spoke these words: “But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.’” Isaiah 43:1

Who are you? Ultimately, God gives answer to this question in one, simple word…MINE. We are His, created in the image of God. We understand that the purity of the image was lost in the fall, prompting confusion and a search for meaning. However we also believe that we are recreated in Christ to the restored image, to be one thing…His own. By the power of the Holy Spirit God and the mystery of Baptism, God has revealed the answer to humanity’s core existential question. God says, “You are mine. You are my child. You are my people. You are my Church!”

So, practically speaking, the core value we have been given by God is our identity in and through Jesus Christ. The values that emerge in us are the most natural and motivating expressions of our belonging to God. Influenced by our time and place, our values are formed and shaped by His Word in our unique context and community. Tools like LCEF’s VisionPath and Asset Based Community Development help us to clarify what truly motivates us to proclaim the Gospel when and where God has placed us. The path to God’s vision begins with this first step, this first answer – “You are mine, here and now, to do my will to the glory of my Holy name!”

Dominic Rivkin
Rev. Dominic J. Rivkin is Founder and Mission Developer of LINC Los Angeles, a mission agency dedicated to launching transformative faith communities in the city. LINC Los Angeles is listening to and immersing in the local communities in order that we might identify, encourage, equip, and empower neighborhood leaders to launch and support new ministries to reach new believers. Find out more by visiting our website, www.lincla.org.