One of my greatest passions is helping people to discover their identity in Christ, the unique person God has created them to be, and how they can relate to others so that in community who they are can flourish. To equip people to grow into the particular aspects of God’s likeness he invites them to experience, share and display (covenant; being) and the particular work he has for them to achieve in his greater plan (kingdom; doing). At the most personal level, I believe that our names are significant in revealing our God-given identity; and the battles we will face as Jesus comes that we might experience our life in its fullness, and the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy the life God intends for us, the person God made us to be(come) (John 10).
Regarding our identity, Ephesians 4 is also a key passage. While I was at college, I wrote a dissertation on apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers.
The biggest objection to the ideas I explore there - engaging in particular with the writings of missiologists Alan Hirsch and Mike Breen and also with sociological commentator Malcolm Gladwell – is that the verses in question cannot support the weight of the case being built on them.
Jesus described the kingdom of God as being like a mustard seed, which grows into a mustard tree. A mustard seed is a very small seed, and a mustard tree is a very large shrub. But the difference between a mustard seed and a mustard tree is not quantitative – a mustard tree is not just a bigger mustard seed, or many mustard seeds. The difference between a mustard seed and a mustard tree is qualitative – a tree is a totally different thing from a seed. The key thing is not that they are the same thing, but that the tree that grows is faithful to the seed that is planted: a mustard seed does not grow into an apple tree or an oak tree, far less a car or a football.
And so to the objection that these ideas concerning apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers goes far beyond what can be considered an exegesis of the text – or a description of the seed – I agree. However, the activity we are engaged in is not primarily a description of the seed, but a description of the tree we believe has grown from that seed. And in describing the tree, we are very much discovering the tree, and will continue to learn about the tree and revise our conclusions as we do. But a tree there is, and it is certainly big enough to support the weight of the case being built.