Christianity as Community

imagesIt’s becoming increasingly clear to me that an individual’s enjoyment of Christian identity and mission (that is, of being Christ’s body missionally present in the earth) is not possible apart from communal existence. And by communal existence I mean a community whose individuals are defined by community, not a community whose ‘community’ is just the sum of its individual parts. Forgive me for being less than clear. I’m still settling in.

I also have a growing conviction that evangelical faith inherently militates against the formation of Christian identity because evangelicals define faith and identity so individualistically. The ‘Church’ for evangelicals seems to be more of a ‘group of individuals’ whose faith and salvation are self-contained from beginning to end within each of the individuals that comprise the group. ‘Faith’ and ‘salvation’ turn out to be only contingently related to being the ‘Church’ as a place where I express, not where I am impressed, and this may be why evangelicals as a rule don’t think there are any authorities outside the individual on matters of faith and interpretation, which in turn partly explains why we evangelicals reinvent the Church every generation or so. We are in some ways the ultimate identity crisis.

Can evangelicals transcend this dysfunction inherent to their ecclesiology? I believe so. But it takes time and work because the more an evangelical turns to history for an understanding of a truly communal formation of faith, identity and mission, the more at odds he’s likely to find himself with present evangelical expressions of it.

(Picture here.)

2 comments on “Christianity as Community

  1. Jeff says:

    I think what is relevant, here, is the fact that the NT itself gives us no reason to think that unity of a significant kind was widespread even during the lives of the very apostles whose words were confirmed with signs and wonders–when apostles were teaching in the very presence of their converts, so that they address questions asked directly to them. There is no compelling reason to assume that things would be better today, regardless of HOW that unity was to come about. Scripture indicates that sectarianism is a work of the “flesh” and that those of sects can be motivated by desiring their “members” to be “zealous of THEM.” They can have a form of godliness while denying the very power thereof. Thus, we shouldn’t be surprised that sectarianism is wide-spread.

    Even modern psychology (Myers-Briggs type research) tells us that there are personality types that are naturally “status-quo-motivated” and “hyper-recognition-motivated.” These personal weaknesses can be as hard to overcome as an addiction to drugs. But the former can much more easily find acceptance and superficial respect in the business and political world than the latter. Thus, they can more easily perpetuate their theological errors.


  2. Canadian says:

    Jeff said:
    “I think what is relevant, here, is the fact that the NT itself gives us no reason to think that unity of a significant kind was widespread even during the lives of the very apostles”

    To find sin and disorder in the NT and today is expected, but what is equally as obvious is that sectarianism, schism and division is absolutely forbidden. The NT writings themselves presume an integral and inherent unity and visibility of the body. Even when churches are threatened with lampstand removal, schism is never an option for a Christian.

    The Acts 15 Council had binding and normative authority for all existing Christians (Acts 16:4), and not just because of the apostles.
    Matt 18:17-18; Matt 28:18-20; Heb 13:7, 17, 24; 1 Thess 5:12; 1 Tim 5:17, etc presume a real authority that is submitted to, not to be forsaken just because you disagree.


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