We are the I Generation. Sociologists call what is happening in our world, ‘The Rampant Individualisation of Society.’ The focus is me. This posture has crept into our Spirituality and today, on my 50th Birthday, I thought I would write about my passion, The Church and specifically OUR NEED FOR WE.
Aristotle believed that unless we can connect with Divine purpose then nothing has the ability to satisfy us forever. For Aristotle the Divine wasn’t God and his purposes but contemplation, thought.
I think he was right in his summary although for me the Divine is the Creator of all things and His Son, Jesus. Our pursuit of me becomes a flawed and fruitless exercise unless we can connect our lives with the purposes of God and his greatest purpose is WE.
The Church of Me
Within the matrix of modern Christianity the base ingredient is me; the church, then, is simply a collection of individuals. Conceiving of Christian faith as a private affair between the individual and God, a matter of my asking Jesus to “come into my heart”, means that we can find it hard to articulate just how and why the church has any role to play other than providing a place of fellowship with other individuals who themselves have a private relationship with God.
What becomes lost in this model is the beauty and truth of the church as a living community embodying its head, Jesus. The Church of Me, tends to see the church as a place where individuals come to find answers to their questions or as another place where individuals can satisfy their consumerist ideas. In this state, as James K A Smith says,
Christianity becomes intellectualised rather than incarnate, commodified rather than genuine community.
The Holy Catholic Church
So declares the Apostle’s Creed, “I believe in the Holy Catholic Church.” The creed is not speaking here of Catholicism as we know it but the Whole Church of Jesus Christ. This idea undoes the modern individualism that plagues modern evangelicalism. Christian Philosopher James K A Smith again,
Indeed we would do well to recover a much maligned formula: “There is no salvation outside the church.” This does not mean a particular ecclesial body is the dispenser of grace or the arbiter of salvation; rather, there simply is no Christianity apart from the body of Christ, which is the church.
The Gospel In Surround Sound
In a recent message I talked about there are three ways the gospel (using the word gospel very loosely here) is proclaimed in the World today.
- You are God: Look to light within, you are amazing, wonderful, divine, become one with yourself and your world, just follow the light within. Oprah, it could be said, may be the most well known preacher of this ‘gospel’. This is the gospel in ‘mono’.
- You and Jesus: All you need is a personal relationship with Jesus. He came for you, all you need is Jesus. This is the gospel in ‘stereo’. Nothing in what I have just written on this point is wrong other than the word all. Jesus doesn’t just restore the relationship vertical with himself, his salvation restores the relationship horizontal by recreating community.
- You, Me, We and Jesus: This is the gospel in ‘Dolby 10.1 Surround Sound’. Reconciled through faith in Christ to God and planted in the community of faith, the family of God, the Church. The body is the New Testament’s organic model of community that counters the modern evangelical emphasis on the individual.
The Church exists for more than me, my salvation is not just a matter of intellectual or emotional satisfaction. The church is the place where God renews and transforms us, a place where the practices of being the body of Christ form us into the image of His Son.
Quotes by James K A Smith from his book, ‘Who’s afraid of Postmodernism’.