Everyone desires significance. Not significance in the fame sort of way, where one is set apart from the rest as being from another class or being “more special.” That’s just a substitute; like Splenda for real sugar. They desire significance in the sort of way that they are a part of something that wouldn’t be what it is without their contribution. That if they left, it wouldn’t just be business as usual.
Regretfully, we live in a culture that mostly attempts to find this significance in the fame sort of way. We call this pursuit individualism; and we unknowingly let it eat away at our souls.
It’s all about me
Individualism entails attempting to find significance by putting your own individual wants, needs and desires as supreme over and above all other pursuits. While most of us wouldn’t give lip service to this idea, when you examine our daily lifestyles and take inventory of how our time, money and energy are spent; well that is a different story altogether.
This is the culture you and I have been born into. It’s the culture that has trained us how to think. It’s the culture that has influenced how we spend our time. It’s the culture that persuades us to believe it’s OK to move thousands of miles away from family for a few thousand more dollars a year in salary, or maybe for some nicer weather. It’s the culture that has taught us to fragment our lives the way we do. It’s the culture that has us believing our individual needs should choose the church we attend (Do I enjoy the speaker? Do I enjoy the music? Do they have a good program for my kids?). It’s the culture that…ok, you get the point!
No one deals with the root issue
The scary thing is…when do you ever hear anyone talking about this as a major problem?! So, we continue on trying to build and/or find the latest fad or program (small groups, house church, missional community anyone?) without dealing with the root of the issue.
A small group is created, but if the attendees bring an individualistic mindset, you’ve simply created an individualistic small group. The members attend when it’s convenient, only participate if they’re the participating type and fail to challenge each other for fear of not being “tolerant.”
Add to that the fact that the typical small group contains members whose basic understanding of the tenets of the Christian faith aren’t aligned, it’s no wonder these programs turn over so quickly right?!
Even churches start with the individual
Ironically, individualism has even infiltrated the way we think about building community. Many approach the building of community with the presupposition that disciples need to be “made” in order for community to be built. They start with the individual. This is why you see discipleship programs everywhere, but very little healthy biblical community.
The problem is, you can’t have one without the other. Disciples just aren’t made outside of the context of close-knit community, and the community experience isn’t possible without disciples who are willing to put the Lord’s interests over and above their own. Yet, we continue to build discipleship programs that teach principles and don’t facilitate practice.
Individualism is a major, in fact an all-encompassing, obstacle to the community experience we were built for.