Who do you say Jesus is? By knowing and proclaiming Jesus’ identity, we can live fully into the call that God extends for us, living out our faith in ways that we didn’t dream possible. During the 2023 Synod Assembly, learning about the way that Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, Greensboro lives out their identity through their values and purpose statement was a powerful reminder that God does amazing things when we dare to claim Jesus’ identity and dream about who we are called to be.
Pastor Matt Canniff-Kesecker, addressed the assembly and shared that the congregation he serves, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, from the historic African American descent community of Warnersville (Greensboro), took the time to discover their identity in Christ conversations that shared their story, values, history, and relationship. The result was a clear purpose statement that is used to define and shape the way they minister to those in need in their community. Their purpose statement, “Lifting Up Every Voice With the Joy of Jesus,” drives the way that they are in relationship with each other and the way that Christ is proclaimed through their ministry programs.
As caring for neighbors is a high priority for Prince of Peace, one of the ways that they live into God’s call is by partnering with local organizations. As a result, the Peaceful Seeds of Warnersville Community Farm was begun. A community garden, a cold pantry center, and teaching opportunities were developed to provide nutritious foods and teaching/ fellowship opportunities. Prince of Peace lives into their call by providing space on their campus for the garden, electric access for a cold food pantry, and a space to make pizzas together on a weekly basis.
As Prince of Peace shows us, there is strength in finding out our congregation’s core values and guiding principles. Why? Knowing our identity helps us to understand why we exist and how we are called to proclaim Christ. Just like Prince of Peace reflected on the stories and events that shape their values, so can we in our own church councils and congregational bodies.
Take the time to gather with your congregation councils and committee groups to discuss your core values and dream about the future. How has your past shaped who you are? How have people encountered Jesus during worship, during your community partnerships, and during your other ministry programs? Who is Jesus to you? Who is God calling you to be?
Knowing that Christ is at the core of our identity, leading and guiding us, equips us to move forward with the knowledge that we are encountering Jesus in our congregations, in our communities, and in the ministry that we do both within and beyond the walls of our building. Naming who Jesus is to each one of us should be just as important as determining budgets and voting on council members. Will you spend time in your own ministry setting learning, praying, telling stories, and discovering who Jesus is? Will you then shape your ministry to live into the ways that Jesus is calling you to proclaim the Gospel, the good news, to those in need in your community?
Christ is present with us as we discover how to live into the identity God calls us towards.