Identity is important. People are killed and imprisoned over cases of mistaken identity. Identity indicates a person’s purpose and role and sets the expectations of others. When someone’s identity is not clear, the outcome is often embarrassment, confusion, frustration, or disappointment.
In the Body of Christ, it is important that we know our identity. As believers, we need to know we are sons of God. We cannot understand our purpose until we know our identity. Much of the church today suffers from mistaken identity.
Paul spoke much about his own identity and the identity of the church. He taught in 1 Corinthians 12 that we are members of the Body of Christ. It is not enough to know that we need the other members; we must understand how we fit together with them. We must give and receive from one another. In order to give and receive correctly, we need to know our identity within the Body and be able to recognize the other members of the Body as well.
It is especially important that we identify the five ministry gifts mentioned in Ephesians 4:12. Paul said all five gifts – apostle, prophet, pastor, evangelist and teacher – were given for the maturing and perfecting of the Body of Christ. For believers to be mature, we need to recognize and draw from all five of those gifts. If we cannot identify these gifts, we will expect things from them that they are not capable of giving. It would be like expecting your big toe to throw a baseball. Your toe is a part of your body, sure. But it’s not equipped to throw a ball. It is equipped to bring balance to your body, so that you don’t fall over when you throw a ball with your hand and arm. In the same manner, we need all of the ministry gifts, and we need to know what the purpose of each gift is to the Body of Christ as a whole.
I have several friends who are apostles or prophets. It seems that every time I talk to them, they are frustrated because many of the people they minister to only recognize pastors, teachers, or evangelists. Therefore, the apostles and prophets only flow in a measure of their anointing when they minister, leaving them with a sense of frustration. Not only that, but the Body is unbalanced, not receiving the benefit of all five of the ministry gifts.
When the Lord sent me to Carnesville to pioneer a church, I knew very little about the ministry of the apostle. I certainly did not think He would ever deal with me about being one. I knew God had called me to start our church, but I was different from the other pastors I knew. It seemed my people expected things of me I could not produce. They wanted me to throw the ball when I was trying to bring balance. They wanted me to act like Jesus cradling a little lamb; I needed to portray Jesus as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. One is a quality of a pastor; the other is a quality of an apostle.
The revelation of the ministry of the apostle gave me liberty to be what God called me to be. My frustrated ended when I began to understand my role in the Body of Christ. Soon, others began to appreciate the role of the apostle as different from the role of the pastor, so they stopped expecting me to act like someone I wasn’t. Not only that, but it helped us all to see the value of those around us who truly have the gift of pastor. Their frustration was ended, too, as they identified and entered into their role in the Body.
Don’t be a victim of mistaken identity. Allow the Lord to show you what role you have in the Body. Learn to identify the gifts around you. God is revealing his five ministry gifts so we can identify them and receive from them. Don’t let a case of mistaken identity keep you from the gifts God has for you!
Q: Do you KNOW who you are? Do you KNOW your purpose?