One of the biggest struggles in my life is my identity. By identity I mean “Who am I and why am I here?” I believe mankind for thousands of years has struggled with this thought, it is part of what separates us from the animals. I really don’t think my dog wonders “Why am I here?” He sleeps, he eats, he poops, and he plays, but I really do not see any indication of wondering about his purpose in life. As far as his purpose in this world, he seems content.
But, I never reach contentment with who I am. I enjoy my career, and it has given me a comfortable lifestyle, but I am not passionate about it. Most people I know get their identity from their family, but for complicated reasons that doesn’t work for me. Some people get their identity from their hobbies or interests, and to a certain extent my interest in historical Christianity is my hobby, but there are limits to how much of an identity I can receive from my hobby.
Capitalism is driven by mankind’s need for identity. If capitalism only supplied our needs, then we would have a simple society to provide food and clothing. Instead, an ever growing list of products promise us an identity if we only buy the product.
Most all methods of growing a church is based on meeting a persons needs for identity. Churches promise that they can give you an identity. Churches promise connectedness with other people like you. One church in my town is even the church for beer lovers. Other churches identity themselves as the denim church, the coffee church, the financial freedom church, the caring church, the empowering church, the building families church…the list goes on and on.
I have learned that pastors often take advantage of those whose life circumstances have led them to an identity problem. They say “Help me build great things.”, and we go off and give exorbitant amounts of time and money building their great thing, then get hurt when the great thing collapses or we get left behind.
I have recently being reading on Martin Luther. In a way, he addressed this problem. In his day, people were taught that priests and monks had a special place in religion, and in order to have an identity in Christ, you needed to become a priest or monk. Martin Luther responded with the idea of a vocation, that God has given each of us an identity in the life and circumstances in which He has placed us.
In my wanderings in the wilderness, I realize that I must determine my identity, separate from any specific church. Otherwise, I am doomed to continue going from church to church, hoping one will meet my need for identity, but never get there.