Shaping Identity In the Local Church
A local church has the ability to influence an individual’s personal identity through its discipleship ministry. How this happens is a complex and ongoing process. The degree to which an individual is associated with a church, the time a church has with the individual, and other factors will impact just how influential a church may be in this regard. We need to be thoughtful in how we go about shaping identity in the local church.
A Unique Opportunity
As noted in an earlier article, a person’s identity is, ultimately, related to the person’s theology or worldview. As an individual ages and matures, his or her identity and worldview become increasingly complex and “fixed.” That’s why the best opportunity for influencing a person’s identity occurs during the earliest years of a child’s life.
This doesn’t mean a church shouldn’t try to or can’t influence an adult’s identity. For older children, young people, and adults, the process of influencing identity takes place naturally in the church’s ongoing discipleship ministry because it impacts the individual’s theology even though the process is slow and can be challenging. For preschoolers, however, there is a unique, short-lived opportunity to shape the child’s identity due to the child’s brain development and the relative “ease” of impacting the child’s thinking. This opportunity should be seized and pursued intentionally and strategically.
Elements Impacting Identity
Regardless of the person’s age, the local church is able to help an individual grow toward a healthy (biblical) self-identity. It’s important to understand, therefore, the key elements of a biblical identity and how churches and families can influence this development. Subsequent articles will address these key elements of a biblical identity. They are the God of the Bible, Relationships (with individuals and communities), the Surrounding Environment, and the Self. We will explore each of these in upcoming articles.
Author, Speaker, Bible Teacher
See a list of other articles by Rick Edwards.