Shared Identity a Q+A with Cheryl Luke
A speaker, podcast host and life coach, Cheryl Luke is committed to inspiring the generations to embrace Christ’s unyielding love and live with intention. She lives in the Austin, Texas area where she has attended Shoreline Church for over 30 years and has been on staff for 19 years. Over the years, Cheryl has served on the worship team, led Women’s ministry, Assimilation, Guest Services, Hospitality, Celebrate Recovery and the Coffee Shop. Cheryl serves as the National Director of Cultural Communities for Celebrate Recovery.
You can find Cheryl at www.cheryllukecom, on Instagram @cherylluke and The Mosaic Life Podcast.
Cheryl, you’ve led a multifaceted life across your career as a pastor, speaker, podcast host and the National Director of Cultural Communities for Celebrate Recovery. Your work as a Christian leader with a variety of diverse groups must be full of “shared identity” moments.
Can you describe an experience that brought individuals together in shared identity and /or can you share a personal story of how Shared identity has played out in your life?
I’ve had the privilege of experiencing a range of jobs over the years. Shared identity has played a significant role in those positions.
Most of my work history has involved people and groups who have various perspectives on life. As a young adult, I worked in the beauty industry as a cosmetologist, then worked at both Dell and Apple Computers before entering ministry full time. I learned that healthy, fierce or difficult conversations, are sometimes necessary and the catalyst that brings clarity of one’s perspective, which may not align with mine. Yet, I’ve found that coming together around shared values, interests or purpose, despite our differences, to be relationally unifying.
A few years ago, I led a missions trip to Rwanda, in support Africa, New Life, whose goal is to break the cycle of poverty for families in Rwanda and to share the freedom and hope found in Christ. We were a team of approximately 9 individuals from various cities across the US. We met for the first time, at our connecting flight, in London. We were immediately connected. While we did not know each other, had no previous contact or reference outside of a FB group, we shared a common desire consistent with that of the mission of Africa New Life. Our time together was strategic and memorable.
As Celebrate Recovery’s Director of Cultural Communities, my role is to ensure people of color are aware that CR is a safe space to heal from life’s hurts, hang ups and habits. We provide training and resources designed to cultivate awareness for those who are unfamiliar with this Celebrate Recovery model. Several groups, from around the country have formed with the purpose of finding freedom from chemical and sexual addiction, co-dependency, anger, along with food and a number of other issues.
How does our individual identity in Christ translate into Shared Identity with others and why does it matter?
Individuals with strong identities have clarity and consistency around who they are and what they do. They are driven by values that guide their work, how they interact with others and what they think about themselves. The essence of who they are, their thoughts, feelings and behaviors are relatively constant.
People who find their identity in Christ posses these same qualities. However, understanding themselves through the lens of the gospel is the essence of their identity in Christ. John Piper wrote, “Christian selfhood is not defined in terms of who we are in and of ourselves. It’s defined in terms of what God does to us and the relationship he creates with us and the destiny he appoints for us. God made us who we are so we could make known who he is. Our identity is for the sake of making known his identity.”
Richard Rohr says in Falling Upward, “When you get your ‘Who am I?’ question right, all the ‘What should I do?” questions tend to take care of themselves.” Identity is vital not only for internal unity but also for our engagement with others outside of our congregations. As Rohr observes. “None of us can dialogue with others until we can calmly and confidently hold our own identity.”
Shared identity moves us from me to we. When we truly understand and are confident in our identity in Christ, we can accept others and work toward a greater call. Experiencing common purpose with others is the heart of shared identity. Bringing individuals together, who may be vastly different, yet possess common interests brings glory to God and paints an unmistakable picture of who he is for others to see.
Cheryl, what’s possible or what could we accomplish if more women/people/Christians shared identity?
There is no limit to what we can achieve when we function with shared identity. Individuals operating to the fullest of their capacity, giving space, permission and opportunity for others to do the same — this is Gods intention for the Church!
Ephesians 4:1-3 Paul, after explaining what God did for us in previous chapters, writes “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
We have been called to be humble, gentle and patient. To love others and to cultivate or guard the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. Shared identity is a calling. It is a common purpose, a oneness that cannot be achieved on our own. Dr. Wayne Barber, in Preserving the Unity of the Spirit writes “We do not produce unity . . . Oneness does not come from being together. Oneness does not come from knowing each other’s name. Oneness does not come from going out and eating together. Oneness is produced by the Holy Spirit of God. When you are right with God and I am right with God, we are one together. The Holy Spirit is the divine spiritual ligament that holds us together, given to us by the Lord Himself.”
When we are right with God we value others, and establish relational trust. When relational trust is established we walk in unity. When we walk in unity we cultivate community. And a thriving community is a force to be reckoned with.