Reading time, three minutes. In 1974 I was 6’3″ and 160 pounds so I bought a pair of platform shoes with three inch heels. Not only did they look stupid, they didn’t feel very good either. I looked like a stork with a limp (the plaid bell bottoms didn’t help much), and every bone in my ankles and feet screamed at me, “What are you DOING!?!” I wanted so badly to look cool like some guys I knew who really did make those shoes work for them, that I ended up miserable. Churches can do that too. There is only one baptism (Ephesians 4), but every child of God is gifted and graced by God into their own unique baptismal calling in Christ. Part of our journey of faith as individuals is living out our vocations in life according to our own unique set of passions ans gifts. We live out our lives as disciples in our own setting that is unlike anyone else’s. We have our own histories that make us one of a kind. A healthy Christian congregation finds it’s own identity in Christ, too. There are some gifts of God that are common to every Christian congregation. The Word and the Sacraments are gifts that we celebrate and administer exactly after the fashion Jesus instituted. Our confession of the faith, our gathering at the cross for forgiveness, the one hope of salvation: these are common to us all. But no church shares it’s history or setting and context with another. Discovering their unique history and context for proclaiming Jesus’ love is how a healthy congregation discovers it’s baptismal identity. It’s easy, and often tempting, to look at the church on the other side of town or the other side of the country and try to make our feet fit into their shoes. That’s always a big mistake. I’d love to hear your story of finding your own congregational identity. I’m having so much fun working with congregations all across the synod leading our Congregational Wellness Weekends. I always tell the pastor well in advance, “I would never tell you how to lead worship or instruct your children or reach out to your community. You can make those decisions.” I just want to encourage churches to be the people that God has called them to be. And I’m finding that healthy churches know themselves well. They know their neighborhoods, and can see with absolute clarity why it is that God placed them where He has. They know their history and where the Lord has placed His hand of blessing on their work. And they go with that. They don’t try to be something they’re not. Our highest calling as followers of Jesus is to be who we are, the baptized people of God, called, gathered, enlightened and sanctified to be salt an light in our own communities. Back in the 70’s, I eventually found some shoes that were the complete opposite of the platforms: soft, comfortable, negative heel with the toes just a little bit higher than the heel. I wore them out and wish I could find a pair just like them today. They fit me. Much healthier, and much more me. I’m praying that every church finds their baptismal identity, their uniqueness in the gospel of Jesus. Thanks for reading. Do you serve in a multiple staff setting in a church, Lutheran school, university or social service ministry? Discover how a Ministry Team Wellness Workshop can help enhance your team ministry by building the unity, spiritual life and communication essential to partnership in ministry. Contact Program Director Darrell Zimmerman for more information.