Part D - Re-creation: Identity and belonging below the surface
Poverty creates unhealthy identities for everyone. The poor see themselves as less than human because of their lack of power and the non-poor see themselves as gods because they have so much power. For God’s reign to come about both these identities need to be reshaped by him.6 The kingdom of God gives a new identity to the poor as it brings them from the margins to the centre and it speaks a harsh word of judgement on the non-poor who have marginalised others. If there was ever any question about whether God was for the poor Ash dispels it with a wonderful piece of logic, “Since God is just He has a priority for those facing injustice.”7
The question that then faces us is how we deal with these broken identities? How do we have them transformed so we can see God’s reign realised. Ash suggests that ‘discipling relationships’ are the key, “unless we can find and develop these discipling relationships, everything else we want to see happen will not have the necessary human resources.”8 I totally agree with him, without deep relationships that are intentionally about helping us follow Jesus better we will definitely fail. It’s when these kinds of relationships are weak in my life that I struggle to hold it all together.
Throughout history there as been committed communities and movements that have helped God’s people hold a vision of and work towards realising God’s reign. In different eras they have faced different challenges and taken on different forms, we need to learn from these and look to the challenges of our current context.
To be able to face the radical discipleship challenges of transforming neighbourhoods we are going to have reimagine some elements of how we’ve been doing church. Ash suggests we look to order to support and sustain us as we go about this challenge.9 Orders are a high commitment environment where there is a strong focus on formation in the context of community resulting in action. They rise and fall on the integrity of the members and their ability to live out their calling. They provide a strong discipling and support basis for radical action from their members.
Another area of church that Ash suggests be reimagined is the church as a social movement. A vehicle for action that is more open and inclusive and founded on a clear ideology.10 Ash compares these groups to tribes that do not have as close community bond, but share a common identity and purpose; they gather together and partner with other tribes.