So, if our individualism is the biggest obstacle to experiencing healthy community, how do we overcome it? What’s going to motivate us to stop organizing and prioritizing our time, money and energy strictly around our individual pursuits and counter-culturally prioritize a community’s pursuits over and above our own?
Find a transcendent purpose
This type of motivation can only be found when a purpose that requires a community takes over an individual’s heart and mind. A purpose that is important enough to them that it catapults itself above and beyond their individual’s wants, needs and desires. A purpose that makes individual pursuits lose much of their value.
Only when a purpose grips the hearts and minds of an individual to the point where they will restructure and re-prioritize their lives for it, then and only then will the illness of individualism be overcome.
And only when this type of transformation occurs in enough individuals that are connected to each other can a Kingdom community begin to be built. As long as people try and build community without this type of purpose in a group of people, it will only go so far.
Pushing through challenges
Typically, it goes about as far as when things start to get hard; for this is when the extra motivation is needed to stay committed and fight through. I mean, there’s got to be something to keep you together when you want to rip each other’s heads off, right?
Or how about when a member of the community is challenged on their way of thinking or confronted about their specific behavior? What’s going to keep them from leaving (as is our standard reaction to such things)? A common purpose that goes beyond our individual feelings – and in fact requires us to stay and work things out – is what will do this.
Signs of purpose in community
When a common purpose is present in a community of people, they will know what it is. You could walk up to any of them and ask them why they are doing what they’re doing and you will get the same answer; because without this answer they don’t exist.
It will cause individuals to submit to loving authority when they are confronted or challenged, because they know and have confidence in everyone’s commitment to the purpose. It will cause them to behave in ways that noticeably communicate the purpose, many times becoming traditions passed on to those around them and on to future generations. It will cause them to submit to community standards of living even when they feel like pursuing self-fulfillment; and it will cause them to formulate and implement strategies for spreading the purpose to the world around them.
This is what happened in the first century when the Church began. As Randy Frazee points out in his book The Connecting Church 2.0…
Having a common purpose is precisely what made the first-century church in Jerusalem so dynamic. Luke records these words in Acts: “All the believers were together, but they all had their own ideas as to why they were there.” Wait a minute. That’s not what it says! The verse reads that “all the believers were together and had everything in common…” and “all the believers were one in heart and mind.”
Lay hold of God’s eternal purpose
So, what was the purpose of the first believers? It’s was God’s eternal purpose. There are volumes of books written on the subject, but just know that their purpose was not human-centered. It was God-centered. It was by Him, for Him, through Him and to Him (Romans 11:36) – to bring all things under His headship. It was bigger than themselves and even bigger than the community – and it caused them to leave their individualism behind.