Some thoughts on Community:
There is nothing like sitting here in Myrtle Beach on the 10th floor balcony over-looking and hearing the waves splash on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean doing some good reading…
I’ve been reading again “Beyond Foundationalism” by Stan Grenz and John Franke.
They have some neat discussion of Community being one of the focuses of Theology. Here are some thoughts from the chapter that i found helpful and interesting.
They quote Robert Bellah who says,
“for most Americans the meaning of life is to become one?s own person, almost to give birth to oneself.”
Grenz and Franke discuss the individualistic society and the communal society. They argue that for the individualistic society, “the self is autonomous, self-determining and unencumbered ” that it exists outside any tradition or community” and that the individualistic view of how to find one’s “self” effects how we approach ourselves and life itself. It seems clear that this view of life is very prevalent in our society, especially in Suburban America. Take a look at most “successful” people in our society and we often look with awe on how they did it, and how they made something of themselves. I can remember taking American Studies in highschool and the focus of it was the “American Dream” and how we could individually acheive it. In the corperate world, its seems the best way to climb the ladder of success is to step on others. The main idea is that we don’t need anyone else. My success depends on me and my talents. There is definately a “lone ranger” idea in our society.
Grenz and Franke go on to argue that a more communal view of life “emphasizes the communal form of human nature its proponents are convinced that the self is formed by its relationships, roles and attachments, that is, by a person’s connection with other people as well as institutions and traditions.” (p.208)
They argue that the communitarians ?see the foundational shortcoming of radical individualism is its disregard for the social dimension of life and for importance of that dimension in shaping of the self.?
Basically, individualism fails to recognise that the deveopment of the “self” is naturally influenced by others and these other “selves” are part of the development of what we are and who we become.
As a pastor, I wonder what some of these thoughts mean for the church.
As one who hopes to help ?shape the selves? of others towards a goal of more complete discipleship of Jesus Christ, this conversation is of utmost importance.
If we are to take and individualistic view of life, that is that our self is shaped apart from other social relationships, the idea of the ?church as a community? is not necessary. Instead in this view, the church exists to as a center for dispensing doctrine, programs and ideas that help us each individually better our own ?selves? towards Chirst-likeness.
However, when we take and communal understanding of the development of the self, we see that the community of God is absolutely necessary to the accomplishing our goal of Christ-likeness. The ?church? then is not simply a dispenser of knowledge and provider of programs. But instead it needs to become of an authentic community where we have intense and purposeful relationships which whom we together better our ?selves.? This is because these social relationships are absolutely necessary to accomplish our goal?.
I am preaching on community here in a few weeks, this is some good thought for me to chew on as I am convinced that the church needs to be a missional community that is necessary for our growth. Also, it helps me wonder what the church needs to be ?doing? and what things are important as we try to ?be the church? in our context. How do we be a genuine community where each person is dependent on the community for the deveopment of their spiritual self?????
More thoughts as I read later?