Recently, I stated in a sermon that there is an identity crisis in the church. You would be forgiven if you said I was speaking hyperbole. I am guilty of overstatement. Growing up, my dad said that every Powers kissed the blarney stone, giving every one of us Powers the gift of gab. I have never been to Ireland, but somehow, at some point, I gave that stone a big ol’ kiss.
But is it an overstatement to say the church is going through an identity crisis, just like when a person goes through a “midlife crisis?” I can’t speak for the church globally, but in the United States, the church is going through an identity crisis. The church in America, generally speaking, is missing the point of what it means to be in Christ. Go ahead and read Ephesians 1:1-14 and ask the question, what am I identifying with more than Jesus? I would imagine the list would be long, and somewhere down the list, you finally remember Jesus because that is the Christian thing to do.
If my evaluation of the American church is correct, the next question is, where are Christians locating their identity? If it’s not Jesus, then where? Here is a list of a few areas where the devil loves to trip up Christians. Points one and two are softballs that most Christians acknowledge. Points three and found will find controversy because of the current cultural conversation (or lack thereof).
4 Identity Problems
- Professor Carl Trueman wrote a book called The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self: Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism, and the Road to Sexual Revolution. It is a must read. Without writing a full book review, a premise of Trueman’s is that there is a hyper-focus on the self. In other words, Christians are more concerned about their identity being within themselves instead of Jesus. How we have arrived at this point in the American church (and in the wider culture) is a major component of Trueman’s book.
- For a while, the American church has been consumed with materialism. Never in the history of the world has there been a more prosperous country than America. On the other hand, I have seen Christians give generously to care for those who have much less. On the other hand, Christians have found their identity in the material objects rather than Jesus. Christians are choosing their 401k over Jesus, and that is not cool.
- Identity politics is a buzzword. I use it because people have heard of the phrase. It’s popular for Christians to take their god-given characteristics ( (e.g. Shawn Powers is white and male) and emphasize those characteristics over Jesus. Now, no one is saying that their physical God-given characteristics are greater than Jesus, but functionally something else is on display. And the physical characters of people are being used to a political end goal. Identity politics is disgusting. I would rather sit in my own vomit than engage in that nonsense.
- The last category I’ll point out is patriotism. Yes, you read that correctly. Patriotism can be an identity Christians take on over Jesus. Do not get me wrong. I think America is an exceptional country (a point more and more people disagree with). However, Christians are more concerned with maintaining the Judeo-Christian values of the country than protecting the church against the eroding foundation because of soft doctrine. There are many Christians who have the US constitution in their back pocket, but their Bible has a firm layer of dust on the cover.
A Call To Reprioritize Jesus
The list is endless and can become personal real quick, and the church must push back against the cultural noise and be driven back to the Bible to understand how God sees the world. If Jesus is not above everything, if Jesus is not our identity, then it’s time to close the doors to the church. God will be glorified through his people who are in Christ. If not within churches in America then in churches elsewhere. It’s time for the church in America to refocus on why the church exists. For Jesus.