Chapter 6: God’s Story as the Context for Our Identity and Calling

Whew. Though this chapter has not been the longest (page-wise) so far, it certainly may win the title for the densest (content-wise) chapter yet. Seriously, my head was spinning a little when I finally read the final words. But there was a lot of good stuff to cover in these pages.

Chris started out with a fairly concise look at adolescent development, specifically focusing on the two main processes that teens can form their identity through. I realized through my reading that most of the teenagers that I have worked with here in Corry fall into the process that involves creating an identity based around what others have/model/prize, effectively creating a false identity for themselves. This could have something to do with a lot of the push back we encounter when we attempt to help these teens make even the smallest choices that will benefit them in their faith development. Chris also was adamant that no teenager will ever fit our mold of what a fully formed adolescent looks like, and it is actually detrimental to expect them to do so. Humans grow and mature at different rates and in different fashions than those around them will do so. They will mature in their faith in similar paths as well. Our role is to help them understand what knowing their identity in Christ means in the rest of their life. And in many cases, our role will be to help them discover what their identity in Christ is.

From identity springs calling, and Chris explored the difference between identity (who am I?) and calling (what am I supposed to do?). he made a great point that we all ask these questions, and if we are building a community that is truly following in the mission of God, doing the work of God, then we will be finding ways to heal adolescents’ hearts and minds, helping to restore them not only spiritually (or physically if we are able to), but to restore them into a relationship with God and with those around them. Chris then went on to break down who Jesus is, and what His mission was, emphasizing that even He followed the leading of the Holy Spirit (so we should do the same, naturally). It is imperative for students to understand who Jesus is and what His mission was in order to find their identity in Him.

Chris wrapped things up by exploring two more things that he believes students must know in order to understand their identity and place in God’s story; what the Gospel is, and what the Church is. He makes some great points about how sharing the Gospel needs to start at the real beginning, when God created good instead of when we broke everything. Helping students see how close they could be to God seems to be infinitely more effective than sharing how bad they already are. They already know how broken they are. Help them see what God could restore them to.

Overall, Chris uses this chapter to drive further home the point that we are called to have a ministry of reconciliation. We must help students see where they fit in God’s story in order to help them be reconciled. If we do not, then we really aren’t partnering with God in His work in this world.

A couple of thoughts that stuck with me:

  • We must take seriously the importance of helping our students understand how they’re caught up or implicated  in the Story of God. It’s in our identity and calling that we’re both characters in and contributors to the Story. (page 97)
  • I believe it’s essential for students to recognize the work of Jesus – as Prophet, Priest and King. Beyond those three things, all other learnings about the work of Jesus will follow suit. (page 106)
  • The Gospel is best understood and proclaimed in community. This is true because the Gospel is communal. It isn’t about you or me – it’s about us. (page 114)
  • I would venture to say that most students don’t see themselves as the church but as people who go to church. If we truly want to make a change in the world, then we have to reverse that thinking and help students more fully understand the work of the church. (page 116)