The Need for Community
Because God has created us in His image, we are relational beings who thrive best in community. Corporate spirituality focuses on the dynamics of life together in the Spirit as an essential source of spiritual health and maturity, but it also recognizes the fragility of this process and the many ways in which it can be undermined.
Community has been deteriorating of late in the Western world, and it is being challenged today on several fronts. We have witnessed a growing bias toward individualism in the pursuit of autonomy and self-determination. Our culture has been marked by a quest for independence, self-preservation, control, privatization, avoidance of accountability. Superficial corporate spirituality focuses on the dynamics of life together in the Spirit as an essential source of spiritual health and maturity. Spiritual formation involves both personal and corporate dimensions, and the Scriptures provide strong foundations for community. Ministry should flow out of both solitude and community, but there are a number of challenges to community in our culture, relationships, and alienation. It appears that people are busier than ever and lonelier than ever. Technology, mobility, media, entertainment, distractions, travel, information overload, and transience all contribute to the growing plight of social instability and interpersonal tension. “Time-saving” inventions have only made our lives more hyperactive and stress-filled, and our addictions to urgency and performance make us externally driven rather than internally called. This cultural overemphasis on individualism has been aggravated by an increasing distrust of institutions, traditions, and authority.
While we cannot return to the past, we can learn how to treasure relationships as ends rather than means, and we can recapture a transcending biblical vision of commitment and community that will make us more human and less controlled by our culture.
Both Personal and Corporate
We come to faith as individuals but we grow in community. Life in Jesus is not meant to be solitary and individualistic, but shared and collective. Indeed, when we stand before Christ, we will be judged individually according to our works (2 Corinthians 5:10; Romans 14:12), but the nurture of the community of faith is designed to prepare us for our everlasting life with the Lord and with one another.
Evangelicals have a way of stressing the individual side of the spectrum, while liberals tend to emphasize the corporate side of the spectrum. On the theological right, the focus of attention is on justification before God and on the hope of the afterlife. On the theological left, the accent is on social justice and relevance in the current milieu. The danger of the right is that the gospel can become privatized and socially irrelevant; the danger of the left is that the gospel can be reduced to social ethics, inclusivism, and pluralism.
The full counsel of Scripture offers a better way that balances the personal and the corporate. It does so by affirming the good news of kingdom living in the present tense. Forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven actually free us to walk with Jesus today and to draw our life from Him in the context of our daily endeavors and encounters. This present relationship with Jesus makes us alive to the opportunities, requirements, and challenges of our unfolding lives. The spiritual life is both personal and social; it is both dependent upon God (transcendent) and active in the world (immanent). It weds personal holiness with social holiness and melds devotion to Jesus with service to others.
Taken from Ken Boa’s Handbook to Spiritual Growth
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