Identity. Where does it come from? Where do we find it? How stable is it?
Having had a father who was a pastor for more than 40 years, I began to see chinks in the armor towards the end of his life. A guy who had answered the phone, “Pastor Gibson,” every time someone called the house, it seemed that his identity was steeped in what he did rather than who he was.
At the end of his life, when that was gone, it’s hard for me not to think that loss of that identity contributed to his lostness. He didn’t know what to do with himself at that point.
I’m not judging him, just making observations that hit close to home. As I’ve been on this church planting journey, I am all too aware for myself how I can wrap my identity up in a worldly view of success. Am I building the biggest church? Do people like me? Am I following the Holy Spirit or the constituency which cries out for what they want?
Knowing the potential for problems doesn’t guarantee that you avoid them, but it sure makes you more self-aware. I continue to go back to something that my cousin, a church planter as well, said to me when I was very early in this process. In my cocky and self-assured way, I had said that I wanted to hear all the mistakes he had made so that I could avoid them. His reply was that I might avoid the mistakes that he made, but I would still make plenty of my own. #humbled
It continually brings me back to the question of how we measure our success. Do I simply count dollars and people? Is that an effective measurement? I don’t think it is.
But how do you measure impact, especially when you can’t always see it? How can you dig beneath the surface to try to understand what’s really going on in a person?
Through relationship. Through one on one conversations. It seems so completely contrary to everything that I learned, but it also seems to make the most sense. Investing doesn’t mean that I find the biggest group of people, sit them in a room, preach to them, and then wait for everything to finally sink in. Investment means that I know the value and importance of one on one relationships, that I know the value and importance of being present with people in the moment.
As I continue to pull back the curtain to see what’s lurking back there in the dark, it’s too easy to want to pull it back again and cover up everything that I find there. But airing it out, hanging it on the line for all to see is so much more therapeutic. I’m beginning to understand more and more why James wrote that we should confess our sins to one another. When we do it with people we love and trust and who love and trust us, it’s accountability and helps us as we move forward.
I am who God says I am. I’m not who anyone else tells me that I am. I’m not my last failure nor my last success. I’m not my anger, my grief, my pain, my sorrow, my fear, my lust, my ego, or anything else. Those things won’t define me unless I let them.
So I’ll continue to press on towards the mark for the prize. The prize isn’t more people or more money, it’s the high calling of Jesus Christ. That calling is more important than anything else, an invitation to join the kingdom work that God has called us to.