Wednesday, December 10, 2003

I see two intertwined problems: We need to move away from individualistic Christianity and toward community, but we also need to take more personal responsibility instead of relying on our churches. At first, I know this sounds contradictory - like I'm discouraging individuality, and then encouraging it. Like I am calling for community, and then saying we rely on it too much. But I see a huge difference between individualism and taking personal responsibility, and the type of community I am calling for and our churches.

Militant individualism shuns accountability, prefers personal interpretation, and asserts the rights of a person, all in ways that interpret Christianity as fundamentally between each person and God. The way this extreme individualism views a church is as a resource for the intensely individual pursuit of God. Church is not community, it is here to help me. I think we become too dependent on churches as sources of nourishment to spur on our personal growth.

I believe that we need to grow to see our faith as fundamentally communal, in a way that cannot be organized through a church with its campus, meetings, programs, and structures. Christian community (not human community based on preference, personal tastes, shared interests, social status, etc.) can occur in organized churches, but only among those who seek it despite the organizational structures of meetings, buildings, and programs. The personal responsibility comes in when we talk about "seeking" that community.

I find myself trying too hard to help people have community who may not truly want it. Maybe they don't understand it. I think perhaps they are victims of an individualism that our culture promotes. They may only want social interaction, or self-serving relationships, . . . but if they do not want community, and the personal responsibility involved in participating in it, along with the accountability and transparency required, there is little that can be done except to offer it and live in it.

I'm not the first to state that our churches are designed to cater to the individualism of our culture. We need counter-cultural communities of believers that practice Christian community and call for personal responsibility. When we understand the true meaning of those two ideas, we will grasp how counter-cultural we will be.

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