Personal Faith? Communal Witness? Both?
I wonder, has the church made working on our personal faith more important than working on a communal faith? Or, are they impossible to separate? Is it possible to talk about having a personal faith apart a communal faith?
The reason I ask this question is that I often get the sense in America that American Christians (because this is what we teach from the leadership – so its on the heads of us as pastors) don’t have a hard time placing a high importance on their personal growth. Granted, many of us have a hard time committing to this, and we often fall short. But, we at least (in general) are making efforts towards, or feeling guilty that we aren’t, personal holiness. But, we I don’t know how much we feel in commitment toward being part of a community of faith. How much do we change our lives and schedule our lives so that we not only can be a “witness” of the way of Jesus as individuals but so that we can also be a communal witness. I wonder if we have placed such a high priority on personal holiness thus have individualized our faith so much that we loose sight of what it means to commit to a community (often at the expense of ourselves).
We are still reading through I Thess. together and we continue to get an amazing picture of how these people lived. Their lives, their whole lives, were about the gospel (of course, they fell short, and we see that…but there is a sense in which they understood their calling to be a communal witness…and they were somewhat successful! or Paul would not have praised them so much!). Again, we are not talking merely about personal holiness here…we’re talking about giving their lives to a greater calling: the testimony of the community of faith called to live in the way of Jesus.
Of course, don’t hear me say that personal holiness is not important…of course it is! Personal holiness calls us to commit to a community of faith, and committing to a community of faith calls us to personal holiness. What David Bosch would call a single movement…we do both at the same time. it is not a matter of balance, it’s a matter of tension….
Just some thoughts, what do you think???