Moving from an Individualistic Faith to a Communal Faith

Moving from an Individualistic Faith to a Communal Faith

Repentance is primarily a process of changing how I think, adjusting both my assumptions and my mental and emotional processes in surrender to Jesus in order to better align with Jesus. In this season, I’m learning to think communally instead of individualistically. This is a very significant shift.

My faith is intrinsically personal and individual. This is unavoidable: I’m a person, an individual. But individualistic is something else entirely, something unhealthy. American culture tends to be quite individualistic. Our heroes tend to be lone John Wayne type characters. Individualistic is about me, my freedoms, rights, calling, achievements, benefits, and rewards. When my pastoral role was primarily focused on helping people pursue personal freedom, I was frequently amazed at how many people thought that could be achieved without adjusting relational systems and patterns within their family and community.

I have personally surrendered my life to follow Jesus. But the very nature of this personal experience is communal. I am now part of the body (see 1 Cor 12:12), the bride (see Rev 19:7). I am part of the one new man (see Eph 2:15). This isn’t incidental to my personal faith; my individual faith has brought me into this communal reality.

It is insufficient to think of faith as just me and Jesus, for Jesus himself doesn’t think of us in this way.  Jesus knows me and loves me and relates to me as an individual, but not individualistically. He knows me personally, but he walks among the lampstands (see Revelation 1:13, 20). I pursue maturity and growth in my faith individually, but I can only know his fullness with all the saints (see Eph 3:18). This is no mere abstraction, for it to be real in any way, it must find expression in connection and community with others on the same journey of communal faith.

This way of thinking is significantly impacting how I read scripture. I recently read through Romans again and noticed how passages and ideas that used to trouble and confuse me seemed to elegantly and powerfully sync together and resonate. As an example, the idea of predestination and election used to really bug me. But before I was reading it through an individualistic lens, as though Paul was primarily writing about my personal justification and thereby eliminating one of the primary aspects of my individuality, my will. These days I’m reading it communally. God has elected a people, first the Jews and now, in Christ, Jews and Gentiles together. God has elected a people communally. I get to be part of that community individually. This shift in my thinking, from individualistic to communal, is having a huge impact on just about every aspect of my faith and practice as a Jesus follower.

The next time you gather with your church community to worship, try approaching the whole experience communally. Don’t just offer up “your” worship and have “your” experience that applies to “your” life. Be present in the room with the community in worship, releasing an offering of honor and affection together as one. Turn your awareness to the reality that all over the world, believers are gathering together to offer such praise. Consider that in such a moment, you are joined with the great cloud of witnesses (see Heb 12:1) and the Church through all centuries and cultures and languages.

You are you. This carries its own significance. But you are more than you, and the weight of this reality is beyond you.

 

One Reply to “Moving from an Individualistic Faith to a Communal Faith”

  1. Tell me if this makes sense to you but for a long time I have wondered about various worship songs that speak of Jesus in the third person. Calling him he instead of singing to him YOU. And then it’s always me I instead of we In many songs. My heart yearns for some mags that we sing to OUR Lord and Savior as the communal body of Christ on a consistent basis. I know there are some songs that I’m talking about positively but the majority seem to be me and he songs. Has anybody else seen this? Maybe I’m wrong but this is how I yearn for the body to sing to our Lord and Savior

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