The bankruptcy of individualism

Church bulletin:

Being an individual is a wonderful thing. We are uniquely made with our own personality traits, physical distinctives, idiosyncrasies, tastes, desires, etc. We are saved as individuals, and we relate to God as individuals. Individuality is a mark of God’s creative breadth – no two people are identical, identical twins are not identical. And so, individuality is something to be celebrated. Thank God we are not confined to bland uniformity.

At the same time we were created for community. “It is not good for man to be alone”, said the Lord God. While not everyone will get married, God determined that His purposes in this world are best fulfilled in the context of companionship. Companionship is intrinsically woven into the fabric of God’s nature – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Being made in the image of God were made to have communion with Him and with one another. This is particularly evident in that God calls His people to be joined together as the church. Not all Christians will marry, but all Christians must be committed to a body of fellow believers – those who gather on the Lord’s Day and other occasions in order to sit under the ministry of the Word together, pray together, sing together, break bread together, and have fellowship together.

Church means that the many become one. We are many members but one body – each member contributing to the others according to gifts, recourses, and opportunities. We are all individually indwelt by the Holy Spirit, but it’s the gathered church that is His temple – a building not made of stones and mortar, rather living stones. In the same manner there are many individual congregations as we see with Ephesus, Thessalonica, and Corinth, yet there is one church. Christ the groom has one bride not many – He is no polygamist! Our congregation is part of something much bigger involving other congregations the world over. SDRBC has its own characteristics, needs, strengths, and weaknesses and God deals with us as such. At the same time, we cannot become insular and introspective. We need to have a broad corporate vision in which we are one microcosm of the whole.

It is important that we do not let individuality morph into individualism. Individualism is the cult of self. It is the attitude which says, I will commit myself to church life so long as it doesn’t impinge upon what I want to do. Confident in myself, I will forge my beliefs without reference to the church locally or historically. I am my own man / woman, the church is part of the picture if and when it suits me. With the passing of time, the importance of community has diminished. Sadly, we live in an era that champions individualism, and Christians are not unaffected. If Covid did one thing, it energized the dormant spirit of individualism in many believers.

God has blessed us with the church for our good. Faith is nurtured most richly in her womb. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper cannot be properly administered outside the church. Discipline cannot exist apart from the ministry of the church. Church life means accountability and the opportunity for contribution. Church provides a rhythm which shapes our week-to-week lives. Church brings a focal point to our worship. Church means we must love those with whom we would not ordinarily mix. Church is the atmosphere in which we will rejoice and weep with brethren and they will rejoice and weep with us.

Apparently, it was Cyprian who said, “you cannot have God as your father, without having the church as your mother.” Putting Catholic errors aside, I think he is right. Celebrate individuality but give no place to individualism. All for one and one for all as the novelist Alexander Dumas said.