Church Identity: How Your Church Must Not Be Unique

While some car companies have been experts in luxury, Volkswagen has been about cars for everyday people. Volkswagen literally means “people’s car,” and they branded themselves with economic cars. For example, the Volkswagen Beetle was a favorite during the hippie movement in the 60’s when many rebelled against extravagant spending. And when they are true to themselves, they do quite well. When their offerings flow from who they are, they make an impact.

But in 2005, Volkswagen decided they wanted to compete in the luxury market and came to the table with the Phaeton. While car critics lauded it as a masterpiece, it did not match Volkswagen’s identity and was a clear signal of drifting from the core. Few consumers bought the car.

In the same way, we must be careful that our churches do not drift from the core of who we are. We must continually ensure that what we offer our people and our communities deeply matches how God has reconciled us to Himself and who God has formed us to be.

A church is a localized gathering of the called out ones, a group of people Christ pursued and purchased for Himself with His own blood. A church is formed by the gospel of Jesus; therefore, if she offers anything that is not deeply rooted in Jesus, she is not being true to her fundamental identity.

In our individualized culture, we (church leaders included) often want an identity that is highly unique, one that is just for us, one that shows no one else is quite like us. But we must be careful. Our doctrine must not be unique. The foundation of our faith is something we have received. It is not something that we develop, create, or improve. It is the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3). Longing to teach something or say something that no one else has ever said will inevitably lead to bad theology.

Martin Luther wrote, “It is the promises of God that make the church, and not the church that makes the promise of God. For the Word of God is incomparably superior to the church, and in this Word the church, being a creature, has nothing to decree, ordain, or make, but only to be decreed, ordained, and made. For who begets his own parent?”

So in all that you do, offer Jesus to your people, your families, and your community. As you offer counseling, ministry to kids and students, worship gatherings, benevolence to the hurting, food and clothes to the poor, and a plethora of important mission-focused initiatives, offer people Jesus. Unless people are graciously given the good news of who He is and what He has done, we betray who we really are.

In terms of the foundation of our faith, your church—as part of the Church—must not be unique. Lest you misunderstand me to say that every church must be exactly the same, Thursday I will write about how your church must be unique.