It’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.