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Church Should Be Helping Us With Our Identity Issues

Facebook is in the news this morning. They are reeling from allegations that they have gone too far. But so many other organizations are on a similar quest – all around us people want to know what we know about ourselves.    Log on any of a million websites and before long they will s…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
Facebook is in the news this morning. They are reeling from allegations that they have gone too far. But so many other organizations are on a similar quest – all around us people want to know what we know about ourselves. 
Log on any of a million websites and before long they will start prying for information. Who are you? Or go through an airport and you will face identity issues there. Can you prove who you say you are? 
The irony is that there is so much about ourselves that we may still struggle to understand. We wrestle with identity issues. Am I too insecure? How am I relative to my friends? How much should I share with them?
Validating identity
People today struggle with identity in so many different venues. Shouldn’t our churches do at least as good a job of validating our identities as Facebook does? When we go to church, shouldn’t we be at least as popular as Norm when he walked into Cheers?
The one clear mandate we have to meet together can be found in Heb. 10:24-25: “Spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another.”
To me, that sounds kind of like Cheers. Maybe that could be a minimum standard for Church. It should be a place that helps you with your identity issues. A place where you are known, where you are greeted you with the same gusto that Norm could expect at Cheers.
Some questions along those lines: 
  • Do you have some people who know you – the real you?
  • Do they encourage you? 
  • Do they spur you on to love? 
  • Do they spur you on to good deeds?
Your answer to those questions may indicate whether you are experiencing church. This is a prescription for health, not narcissism. Loving ourselves helps us love others better – Jesus tells us to love others as we love ourselves. 
A church that knows you
Young people especially have questions about their identity. Shouldn’t we be helping them?
What if they heard this message from us:
“There is a Father in heaven whose son or daughter you are. He created you and wants you to experience his love through his family – the Church. You belong to them; they need to know you.”
Do you know a church that does that? The world needs some churches that celebrate us when we walk through the door. 
Consider the notion that Jesus’ body on planet earth should see all its members deeply connected. That was Jesus’ dream and his heartfelt prayer in John 17.
For example, here’s a picture of a part of the cafeteria at the ministry where I serve.
Inline image 2
Take a close look. There are eight separate one-on-one conversations happening there. In a way it’s the opposite of Facebook friendship. People are getting what they’re made for: They are known and seen.
It affords us such an opportunity. Imagine if the Church was amazing at validating identity. Isn’t that what we all long for?

Comments (10)

  • This is good Seth! I know I want a church like you describe…where are they? I know my church is not one of them, sadly.

    People should walk into a Church and feel seen! Even the young, hipster Church Taylor attends…she walks in alone each week, unseen. Sits alone..unseen, unnoticed. Yet she goes back…maybe hoping someone will see her, engage with her, I dont know. But it doesn’t seem right.

    But Church should be so much more….a community….a family…that is what I believe God intended His church to be when He sent us Jesus.
    Thanks for sharing this blog!

  • In order to be recognized and appreciated one must first put themselves out there and get involved serving. 15 years ago we moved to a different state. We swore we would never be a part of one particular church. Too cold. Too stuffy. Too whatever. Never tell God never. We have been there almost 15 years now.

    What we found was this.
    1 get involved in SS classes outside of your peer group. You meet a broad range of people with much needed wisdom and experience I desperately want and need.

    2 find a church where you can serve and develop your gifts. If your only warming a seat when you decide it’s convenient to show up, good luck being recognized or feeling valued.

    3 get over your shyness or insecurity and walk up to someone, shake their hand and introduce yourself. My kindergarten teacher was right, “if you want a friend, be a friend.”

    Find a church with a high view of scripture and “rightly divides the word of truth,” get involved and do everything you can to make it a great place where other want to be

  • I’m thankful we can freely express our thoughts in regards to this blog and many others of those who choose to read them. We are blessed!!

    I have a question. If you truly believe this is a cult why are you subscribed to reading it or did you just come upon it by chance? * smiles with innocent inquiry*

    None of us are perfect and all of us have the freedom to share our thoughts in America. That is one of our constitutional rights. I would have to disagree that adventures in missions is an actual cult feeding Kool-Aid to young people. I imagine it would cost a lot of money to go away for a year or year-and-a-half and go from country to Country to Country being fed and housed everywhere you go with all the transportation. I’ve never heard a negative report from any of these people.

    I’ve been on mission trips. I have to say they were life-changing for me but they weren’t as mission-minded delving into Community Service as I wanted. I’ve never been on a mission trip with adventures in missions. I feel the last mission trip I went on was more about teaching and learning then it was actually going into the communities every day. Although I love the place I went I probably will go separate from the mission group I chose to go with if the Lord leads me go again.

    I do agree with your thoughts about church. We are a “me me me” society
    (guilty myself) and it’s very much in the church as well. Always thinking about how our needs should be met. I’ve been finding in my life which consists a little more of solidarity versus community that Jesus does meet all of my needs. Social groups, home groups, other kinds of events are meant for lots of interaction with people. Church is rarely a place to get much interaction with other people. It is more of the focus of growing closer to God in the fellowship of other believers who are hopefully there for the same purpose. Although I do not depend on the church to get me pumped up , fired up, etc ( through music ) or get me into the Word because I don’t read it all week. Those are DAILY food / bread I partake though I am weak, He is strong and mighty in me. I turn to Him every single day all through the day communing with Him letting Him love me and loving Him in return within my weakness.

    May God bless you, shine HIS face upon you, and let Him shine off of you to others.

    In great grace,
    Sandy Smith

  • The one-on-one conversations in that lunch room is among my favorite parts of coming to Gainesville. When I’m not on contract, I just spend my day loitering and having one-on-one conversations with anyone who had time or a desire to chat. Sometimes it’s catching up with squadmates. Other times it’s making new friends and getting to hear their hearts. I wish the church had more space for conversations like this.

    • I love that about us, Katie! It’s so awesome to see the level of intentionality and preference in our tribe. It’s always great to have you here.

  • After reading this article and the responses to it, I feel compelled to ask a couple questions and make a few comments. First, why do you all feel it is the church’s responsibility to make sure people who attend are given such special attention to be made to feel at home. If I decide to attend a church it is because I long to be closer to God – not so I can seen or heard. If I go it is for me and my relationship with my Lord. If I want to get involved in more, I will. It is so bothersome to read some of these comments and then realize that young people who are looking for direction in their lives end up getting involved with your organization.
    there are so, so many similarities between your group and other “movements” that have been revealed over the years. What separates your followers from those who followed Jim Jones to the Kool-Aid counter? Do you and others really believe a person needs to experience being broken and then rebuilt? As I read some of the vial reports from people who have gotten involved with the World Race and in particular with Barnes, I can’t help but come to the conclusion that everyone involved is still searching like they were when they arrived at your doorstep. The rich get richer and the rest get broken……

    Mr. Barnes’ net worth is available if one chooses to look. Feel free to look for yourselves unless you feel it may undermine your confidence in him and the “cultish” operation he owns/operates.

    I agree we have to work to maintain our relationship with God but this group’s mantra of having to experience being broken and then rebuilt is, in my opinion, garbage. This is the same type of message that every “leader” of these groups will tell you. Faith and peace and forgiveness are not badges of honor earned on the fields of third world countries – unless of course the $18000+ is payment enough buy it for you.

    I’m sure this will be met with much disagreement, which means it is likely to late to reverse the effects of the Kool-Aid that this organization has served to those refuse to think for themselves anymore….

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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