Our life and, more importantly, our life in Christ is not defined by our experiences. Rather, our experiences shape and mold us for the moment we’re living in. Here. Now. Jesus was adamant that He was not concerned with our past, but rather what we were doing in the moment.
It’s interesting the shift we take in life. At 18, I was a headstrong kid working as a worship leader who wasn’t really leading. I liked the idea of worship leading better than actually doing it. I prided myself on the fact that I was living a clean life—no drinking, smoking, drugs. At least I looked clean on the outside.
My path took me the same non-traditional road that so many of us have traveled. A little college here, some odd jobs there, three or four different cities, and who knows if I’m done yet. When I left my young worship-leading job in small town Ohio, I chased the love of my life to Chicago. I spent six months attending college downtown, growing up and experiencing some of my closest moments with my savior in a small studio apartment.
A little while back, my fiancé and I were discussing how in so many ways, because we didn’t take what seemed the traditional path through college or the typical path to adulthood, we felt like we’d missed out on many experiences that we wish we’d had.
I’ve never experienced dorm life.
I’ve never had a night where I stumbled home drunk after a party.
I love college football, but I’ve never cheered on my own team on Saturday.
Fraternities are lost on me.
The last time my heart was broken by a girl was sophomore year of high school. And yes, it hurt, but would it be different now?
It seems ridiculous when you stop and think about it. These experiences, I hope, are not what define my generation. I hope that we see better days ahead in our lives than crazy nights on college campuses. I do wonder, however, how much this culture of “experience” dupes us into believing that our experiences define us in every aspect of life. I believe that Christians—because we live, work and love in the world—have also been sold short on this idea.
If you’ve spent any time in ministry, you know the phrases that so many people live on.
“I just remember when it was like…”
“I felt so close to God when…”
The reality is, we’re buying into the same idea. Our life and, more importantly, our life in Christ is not defined by our experiences. Rather, our experiences shape and mold us for the moment we’re living in. Here. Now. Jesus was adamant that He was not concerned with our past, but rather what we were doing in the moment. Jesus’ purpose was to usher in the Kingdom of God here on earth, in the now, for the future. The apostle Paul constantly hammered on the idea of finding our true identity in Christ. We are called to the here and now.
It’s crucial for us, as leaders, that we not create experiences for people. We need to lead people into relationships where they see our identity in Christ and, over time, find theirs. We need to design worship services that break down barriers that prevent us from seeing God’s heart for His people. We need to stop defining our churches by what people experience in the doors, but rather by whom people become because of Christ inside those doors.
It’s a matter of identity, isn’t it? For me, it’s realizing that I’m not defined by what I’ve done or what coming-of-age experiences I’ve missed.
My identity is found in the fact that a couple thousand years ago, a man died so that I could live in the moment. God didn’t sacrifice His son for us to revel in our glory days. He didn’t give Jesus for the Church to revel in what once was. Jesus Christ was sacrificed so that the Church could be birthed, grown, challenged and become timeless. So if I missed a few parties, it’s all right. I’ve got something much bigger to raise my glass to.