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National Conference 2018 Education Experience
Theme... ALL IN
Session Two, Article  One

He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life
will no longer live for themselves.
Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)

YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE captures the content of the first two articles I recently offered, each the approximate text of the teaching I provided at National Conference this past May 2018. The bottom line is that we embrace - OWN - who we are. Identity integrity is of vital concern as we anticipate Kingdom ministry. there can be little hope to "fit and flourish" in a ministry context if we do not know ourselves, strengths and weaknesses.

ALL IN, in addition to a personal element, has a church wide element. We are being redeemed. The following Scriptures begin to capture this ideal.
  • 2 Corinthians 5:15 (NLT)... He died for everyone so that those who receive his life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them.
  • Ephesians 2:19b-22 (NIV)...[You are fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household], built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
  • Ephesians 4:11-13 (NIV)... It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12 to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13 until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
God us using community to complete Christ's body. Community and ministry draw us together around Jesus, from whom we learn what to do and how to do what we do. And he does with each one of us, God works to redeem our community.

     On certain Sundays, looking across our sanctuary, I recognize a face for which i have no name. "We have a visitor!" My heart races: Who is he/she? I used to be guilty of thinking "one more for the head count, one body closer to becoming the size we're looking for." But no more! Not most days! Hardly ever, now. Now I wonder: What are their skills and abilities, gifts and graces? What do they come equipped to do? Or are capable of learning to do? I wonder what they will help us become or accomplish that we cannot be or do without them.
     Now, I fully get that the Cross was all about me, my sin, my death, my new life, and my part in the Kingdom. But also, at the same time, the Cross was/is the same for each one of us. And when we do the math, it takes all of us "in Christ" to fill out the Body of Christ and to complete his mission on earth.
     It's at this point that I can get stuck. I've been around long enough to know that "I" can get in the way of "we." And if I am not honestly in touch with myself - you know the line: YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE - I as a leader cannot take my team or congregation where I am not already headed myself.
     And yet as pastor or leader, that is our task, to help our team members or congregations identify their gifts and graces, develop their gifts and graces, identify their cross-over skills and abilities, encourage the use of their skills and abilities, and then deploy them into grace-based ministry.

There is a shift in our thinking that must take place. As we're mastering YOU ARE WHO YOU ARE, we need to help our team members or congregations join us on the adventure. There are two steps to this adventure. Each individual needs to define him/her self and the group needs to own who "WE" are or are becoming. In the end, our new mantra should become WE ARE WHO WE ARE.
     WE ARE WHO WE ARE is all about our corporate identity, who we are when we come together and when we serve together. This is not as simple as running each individual through some kind of "get-to-know-me" assessment tool or experience. That is part of the process; but we must also consider how we all fit together, how we all work together, and how we add to one another and the team.
     This awareness stretches IDENTITY from simply being about me, myself and I, to being about and including every person on the team. Or big picture, it is about everyone who names the name of Christ for life. This at the very close, local level, is me and my church. This at a much larger, global level, is me and every other Christ follower.

Pastor and delegate, you did not attend National Conference simply for yourself. You came to represent a much larger body of people united under the name of your congregation. Actually, you represented an even larger body of people that trancends time and place, Kingdom people.
     Now, in the same way you and I are being redeemed, remade in the image of Christ, the worldwide Church is in process of being redeemed, the individuals and the corporate Body. We have been saved/redeemed, and we are being save/redeemed.
     When we come together as a faith community, it is a redemptive matter. The individuals are becoming more Christlike, the individuals are completing/becoming the Body of Christ, which is becoming more of what Christ made possibly by way of Manger, Cross, and Empty Tomb.
     Regardless what we were told when we trusted Christ as Savior, we are always redeemed into the Body, never redeemed merely for ourselves. Yes, when we ask Jesus to save us, he does indeed save us. But NOT so we can be a lone wolf, an all-by-myself Christian. that is not a real thing/a real person. We are always saved for and united into the Body of Christ. "I" becomes part of "we." And this "we" is the community God is using to complete Christ's Body. This idea captures "go and make disciples" and "love one another" and "love others."

A key aspect of healthy and effective participation in and with the community of faith, Christ's Body is identity. We must know who we are, not just as individuals, but also as community. We must identify - assess and measure, discern, define, lable, and name it. AND own who we are as individuals and as community.
     All of it... I am short or tall. I am skinny or overweight. I am weak or strong. I am saved. I am gifted. I am skilled. We are a small or large community. We are a confused community. We are an inward-focused community. We are a stubborn community. We are a going and making disciples community. Or not! We must own these things as they apply to us. 
     We must own who we are! Or lie and pretend/live in denial. To lie or pretend or deny assures a certain sad ending. To own our identity is a step toward health.

Now, how does one go about identifying "who I am?" or "who we are?"  My friends, we'll need help: a coach, mentor, guide, a tool or tools. Few of us can do this well on our own.
     Keep in mind that "ALL IN" involves a global understanding of and commitment to making available our gifts and graces, and our skills and abilities for church and for Kingdom.
  • Gifts and Graces... A good goal is to be able to say, "I recognize my gifts and graces," as well as plan to unpack these spiritual enablements so they are available for church and Kingdom. This is making the most of spiritual empowerment. This is what we discussed in our first session.
  • Skills and Abilities... A good goal is to be able to say, "I know what I can do," as well as plan to continue to deepen my well of skills and abilities for church and Kingdom. This is offering my/our personal best! And each of us adds to the others in the Body.
So where do we start? Start with the pastor. Start with the delegate(s). Start with the leadership team(s). Then add in the congregation.

Pastor, you will need to initiate this process. Invite your delegate(s) to join you on the adventure of getting to know your congregation. Start small - Show Me Health. Go deeper - GRIP or GRIP and Birkman. Reach into your church family - NCD study and coach. Do something.
     You may already know more than you think you know. (Or maybe not.) The process of looking inward is not just healthy, it is also a step toward health, strength, and fruitfulness.

In the next article, we will survey the tools and the process of getting to know your church family, your corporate ministry team. Some tools are free, others "not so much." And the EC Leadership Team has professionals and practitioners available to walk with you.
     Until the next issue, I am available to discuss this article, as well as what was shared in  the previous or subsequent articles. Feel free to reach out (717-951-8433 or [email protected]); I will respond.

Les Cool, Kingdom Extension Associate

Discussion Questions:
  • What did you hear/read?
  • What do you think about what you heard/read?
  • What will you do because of what you have heard/read?
  • When do you think you will do this?
  • Who do you think needs to be part of this conversation?