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Shouldn’t Churches Do Better at Identity Issues Than Venmo?

  Do you have identity issues? If so, welcome to the party. Blockchain technology may be bringing a new era of security online, but who gives us security about our identity in real life? Does church, for example, help you with your identity questions? Venmo* may know who you are, b…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes
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Do you have identity issues? If so, welcome to the party. Blockchain technology may be bringing a new era of security online, but who gives us security about our identity in real life? Does church, for example, help you with your identity questions? Venmo* may know who you are, but does anybody in church?
Jesus designed the idea of church to be an encouragement to our spirits. Shouldn’t our churches do at least as good a job of validating our identities as Venmo does? When we go to church, shouldn’t we be at least as popular as Norm was when he walked into Cheers?
Proving your identity
If you were a traveler right after 9/11, you’ll remember how the security lines snaked through the airport terminals. A friend and I were talking about them back in 2001. What if we could dream up a system that could speed things up? 
I had this insight: If they knew that I am who I say I am – a family man who pays his bills and tries to help people – they wouldn’t need to dig through my suitcase to see if I have a bomb.
The problem was, they didn’t know me. I asked my friend, “What if we could validate our identities in advance? What if there was a process just like for any other club where you are a member?”
“Yes, he agreed, that would speed things up. But how are we going to build that?” 
We realized that there was no way to build a business to do this. The government controlled everything. The best thing we could do would be to give away our idea to someone who had the influence to make it happen.
My friend said, “I know just the person! He heads up a D.C. think tank and has government connects.”
Long story short, we gave our idea to him and it became the basis for the Trusted Travel and Global Entry programs! 
Identity problems
We have all these academic conversations about what Church is. About theology and eldership and meetings. We look at the Bible. 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. So, why not make that our minimum standard for church? A place and people 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?
One reason we exist
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 the churches in our towns do that? Do the ones that racers return to know them? Shouldn’t they? The world needs some churches that celebrate us when we walk through the door. 
Jesus’ body on planet earth should see all its members deeply connected. That was Jesus’ dream and his heartfelt prayer in John 17. It happens organically at Adventures, the ministry where I serve. For example, look at the picture above of lunch time.
Notice there are eight separate conversations happening. In a way it’s the opposite of Facebook friendship. It’s a one-on-one where people are known and seen. And it’s what young people are hungry for.
We should be amazing at validating identity!
*Venmo is a mobile app that transfers money.

Comments (6)

  • I like the idea of noting identity as blockchain notes transactions. I am known in my community by the things I do. To be known by my legacy. I am a person who does x,y, and z. I think this builds trust and connection with others. As much as I want my community to ‘know’ me, it is also on me to leave my legacy to the people around me. I then must be intentional in my actions, in order to leave a legacy I want to be remembered and known by.

  • Crazy to think Sunday mornings have come to a place where we can go in to a church building and leave without knowing anyone. His week our church had everyone put on name tags just so names could be known and connections made. Time to start embracing this all over the US and come back to the truth of the importance of intentional relationships. Thanks for sharing Seth!

  • Hey Seth,

    I appreciate your heart provoking articles. I don’t know how to respond to this.I’ve been seeking God about cynicsm. God revealed to me my heart has become this in some measure. I think after years of being in dead churches that lack the authentic love of 1 Corinthians 13 – as of late- I have felt my heart get somewhat hard (and tired). God’s word says He puts orphans in families. I’m looking and waiting for mine.

    I feel often I am not living the life I was called to. Lacking the adventure and passion of evangelism. I do know I am in the furnace (often) and being purged. I am in the process of moving (to a new home), again, and this time it’s getting rid of almost everything I have known (material) and I pray to be prepared for something immaterial! This world feels like a ball and chain.

    The tricky part is living in this world and not being of this world (all the evil mind sets, attitudes, heart, actions or lack thereof). I cry daily to my God to make me pure and to let His love be on my face. Encounters happen yet when all is said and done I am tired, exhausted, and WORN. When will I ever not be WORN? When I stand before God? Face to Face? I sound like David’s Psalms!

    Two years in Austin and no intimate church family support, as of yet. Individuals but not the family feeling of a church family. I know this sounds like whining, but Seth, it is real. I can miss weeks and nobody asks if I am alive.

    WAIT – He says on me and you will find your strength, In ME, He says. I know Father but how?

    I am not sure the church will rise from this cold state without a heartfelt repentence. Does not the word say God’s Kindness Leads US to Repentence? Therefore in order to experience His kindness (His rich love) I must linger in His presence. Then and only then can my heart become softer and then I can repent.

    Where are these new beliefs coming from where groups of Christians say there is no need to repent? We are under grace so everything’s fine. Everything is far from fine. As the church sits in its cozy seat of apathy and the church does not burn with zeal for one another, much less the world, we are far from fine!

  • Bless your heart, Sandy. I’m sorry that the church hasn’t done a better job of caring for you. Life has not dealt you an easy hand. I love how you keep pressing into the Lord anyway.

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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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