Who Am I? Part 2

Who Am I? Part 2

Text: Phil 3:1-17

Watch on YouTube HERE

Intro: How Was Your Identity Formed? Multiple Answers and Many Stories

  • Last week, we studied Moses and discovered that developing self-understanding is a lifelong project.
  • This week we will consider more carefully Tradition as one of the standard options for understanding identity formation. I hope to show:
    • A fundamental aspect of identity formation.
    • An inadequate strategy by itself.

Identity Formed from the Outside-In

  • The Traditional Way of Defining the Self
    • Strong, stable social institutions name and define you.
      • These institutions teach you: who you are, how to behave, and the roles available to you in a stable social world.
    • If you go back 500 years or just a few generations in traditional cultures, you would find that social structures played a primary role in people’s lives and left little room to maneuver.
    • Rigid social classes & punitive ways of dealing with social deviance.
  • Key social forming institutions in my life.
    • Family (few divorces and more time with family), Schools, Churches, the Business World, & the US before the 60’s.
      • Family, the initiating institution of identity.
    • Increasingly during last 100 years in American culture, the role of public institutions has been challenged and modified.
  • Tradition and Change: Even Traditional Institutions Adapt
    • The rate of change varies: managed, evolutionary change (gradual) or active, revolutionary change (rapid).
      • MLK, Race and social change in America.
    • Note: Even with the more modern strategy for identity formation, there is still a dependence on groups and institutions outside of us to validate & support our authentic identity. The institutions are now more fluid and plastic: Universities as sources of key ideas, media & social media, strong advocacy groups, modern socially conscious corporations, and the emergence of a political world that is both more global and tribal, connected and fragmented.

If you take this strategy seriously, you may notice things in the NT that you missed before

  • Jesus, His Father’s Son & Judaism as a Traditional Religious System
    • Jesus and Institutional Insiders: A Threat to Tradition & Stability
    • Jesus and Institutional Outsiders: those who live at the boundary.
    • Jesus and women. (Jn. 4 and 8; Mary and Martha)
    • Jesus and leadership as humble service rather than status & power.
    • Was Jesus building an institution or communities of disciples?
  • Acts: The Story of Emerging Christianity and Social Tensions.
    • Persecution of the Disciples in Jerusalem Acts 1-9.
    • Peter goes outside the boundary to reach Gentiles. Acts 10-11
      • The struggle to accept the changes without forcing conformity to Jewish social identity norms.
      • A Council to Negotiate Expectations. Acts 15
  • Paul: A Revolutionary Missionary & the Writer of Letters
    • Missionary to the Gentiles: Life between cultures.
    • His letters encourage people & address problems that arise in young churches that are in hostile environments.
  • Working out a flexible cross-cultural strategy.
    • Paul’s solution to the problem described in Philippians 3:1-17 his new identity is now in Christ.
    • Jesus taught on New Wine and New Wineskins; Paul formed New Wineskins.
      • Spiritual freedom and the claims of the weaker members as important.
      • Commitment to the poor & the marginal rejected by a larger society.
      • Addressing organizational roles.
    • Paul’s Christ-centered reconceptualization of standard social roles. You may have trouble seeing what he is doing because of cultural bias & because of traditional interpretations of Paul.

Madison Church: Our church as a story of tradition and change

  • Churches of Christ as a Strong Institutional Tradition
    • Congruent Institutions: Church, Family, School, and Society
    • Moral Order
      • Sexual codes included modesty, mixed swimming, & dancing.
    • Authority and Honor
    • Problem: Some People were rejected & hurt because they didn’t fit.
  • An Innovative Leader Open to Change and Growth
    • Ira was a thoughtful change agent: innovative and committed to many changes.
    • A different model for church organization and innovation.
    • Carefully framed change (he challenged racial discrimination).
    • He had harsh critics.
  • A Resistant Leader: Responding to Perceived Dangers
    • Ira’s strong criticism of changes that he saw as threats.
    • Don Finto as problematic for our tradition: he did not fit.
      • Holy Spirit & Small Groups as problems of control.
  • Later Resistance to Change Accelerated and Tensions Increased:
    • Rapid cultural changes, agendas for rapid church change
    • Ruble Shelly as problematic.
    • Escalating Shifts in Youth Culture the Loss of Young People
    • Contemporary Christian Music and Worship

Conclusion: Tradition vs. the Formation of Mature, Christ-centered Character & Community

  • A Church must play an important role in pointing us beyond itself to Jesus.
  • When church as an institutional identity becomes idolatrous.
    • A church-centered definition of being a Christian? The church as a defining institution in your life can become problematic if it becomes more important than knowing and following Jesus.
    • Congregational pride cuts us off from other Christians.
    • Branding and Competition: Growing a church at the expense of other churches.
    • When institutional maintenance becomes more important than reaching the people that Jesus loves and for whom he died.
  • The Spirit, Scripture, & New Experiences can open your mind & heart.
    • Is protection of a tradition more important than following Jesus?
    • Institutional leaders & individuals, be aware of pride.
      • Change is not always progress! Staying the same does not always honor Jesus!
      • Blindness to personal mistakes and bad turns!
    • Seeing God at work in unexpected places, even in places that do not fit my identity.

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