Acts 2:44-47: And all that believed were together, and had all things common And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
Why do we continue foolishly to operate as if our own immediate happiness is of greater value than the redemptive relationships God has placed us in? Why are we seemingly unable to stay in relationship, stay in community, and grow in the interpersonal contexts that God has provided for our temporal and eternal well-being?
Social scientists offer a culturally based explanation for the particularly pervasive loss of social interaction and lack of genuine community that characterize life in America—and in our churches—
today. We are a radically individualistic society, oriented toward personal fulfillment in ways profoundly more ‘me-centered’ than any other culture or people-group in world history. And it is our individualism—our insistence that the personal rights and satisfaction of the individual must take priority over any group to which one belongs—that has seriously compromised our ability to stay in relationship and grow in community with one another as God intends.
The church in the West has become utterly intoxicated by the idea of radical individualism. From the idea that God has a wonderful plan for your life to you will experience great personal fulfillment, if you can discover your spiritual gift(s) and find your unique place in the body of Christ and finally to the notion that God longs to meet your needs, to help you improve your marriage, to make you successful in your career.
As George Barna noted over a decade ago, American Christians are now quite convinced that “spiritual enlightenment comes from diligence in a discovery process, rather than commitment to a faith group and perspective.” The Christian faith is all about me. It is not about us. Culture has hijacked Christ. We have recast the wondrous God of salvation and restoration in the role of a divine therapist who aids the individual Christian in his or her personal quest for spiritual fulfillment and self-discovery. And we have reduced the biblical truth of a holy God redeeming for himself a community of people who will glorify him for all eternity to little more than “receiving Jesus as my personal savior.” The early Christians had a markedly different perspective on personal fulfillment and spiritual formation. And it is a perspective that has great promise for renewal in the church today. [to be continued]