There is a strong individualistic mindset in North America and beyond. While this has many good qualities (which is not the subject of this article ) it also goes against the Hebraic corporate mindset of the scriptures. This has caused preaching, teaching and theology to impose views on the biblical text that is not in accord with the inspired writings of the authors.
The implications regarding this are vast since God knows what is best for us to fulfill our purpose and walk in spiritual and emotional health. It is obvious from Scripture that, it is best if each individual believer learn how to incorporate their life into the context of a faith community.
Nowadays, it is very common, even for people serving in leadership positions, to come to life altering conclusions without including mature leaders in their process. When this happens, it is the (culturally informed) individualistic mindset at work more than adherence to scripture.
The following six points reveal which mindset we are informed by the individualistic or corporate?
1-The Corporate Mindset is about we / the individual is about me
I think it was John Maxwell who said “there is no I in the word team”. Those who walk in the Hebraic mindset of Scripture understand that every decision we make never just affects ourselves but all those around us. The most effective people in the world and church today are those who understand and work with teams of people and or a community with common goals to accomplish specific tasks.
2-Biblically people were sent by the church/Today most just go out on their own
In scripture, believers were sent out by the church to fulfill their mission in Christ.(Acts 13:1,2) Paul even said, “how can someone preach unless they are sent” (Romans 10:15). Nowadays, because of the individualistic mindset, this process is almost unheard of in the church; Now the common practice is “I feel led by the Lord to leave the church” or “ I feel led to do this or that”. Hence, people come to their own conclusions regarding their life and ministry without any pastoral input then they inform their spiritual leaders of their decision. Because of the preponderance of individualism in the culture, when a leader teaches the biblical protocol of “being sent” people may even accuse them of trying to control them (of course, controlling leaders can indeed use the bible for their own ends which is unfortunate). However, being “sent” instead of just “went” serves as a protection that provides extra layers of checks and balances. When someone starts a ministry and or a church the number one question they should be asked is “who sent you”. If there only answer is “God sent me” then they may be making big mistakes regarding protocol, timing and in some cases, their motivation is suspect.
3-Biblically- believers received council from the elders/ Today believers merely google for input
Presently, with the dependency upon social media, many people are self ordained experts just because they can do their own research on google; However, google cannot replace godly, wise input from mature leaders who know both the scriptures and can discern the mind of God. Furthermore, in making life altering decisions, often we need more than mere data, we need to understand various perspectives that can only come from another person. Now, everybody thinks they are an expert, a theologian and knowledgeable on any subject only because they researched a subject on social media for an hour. This is a dangerous way to live and wreaks of rugged individualism.
4- Biblically it’s about Corporate Destiny/ Today it’s about individual destiny
Scripture teaches us that when there is no vision the people perish (Proverbs 29:18). This passage illustrates corporate vision since it affects people, not just a person.
Although scripture is replete with passages dealing with corporate destiny, much of the preaching today has to do with fulfilling individual destiny. However, when folks in the New Testament times read an epistle it was while they were assembled together with their congregation, the said letter was read out loud to the church. Hence, they never interpreted the scripture individualistically but corporately since that was the context of the experience. Presently, everybody has their own study bible and they forget the fact that both the first and second testaments were written to be read in the hearing of an assembled community (Romans 10:17). Of course, we do well to remember that for the first fifteen hundred years of church history there were no printing presses and few, if any, had their own bible. The fact that we have our own bibles today lends itself more easily to the mindset of individualism than it did in most of the days of the church’s existence. If we take both testaments together, then the span was about thirty five hundred years of biblical history before the printing press was introduced.
5-Biblically the church is a family of families / today the church is for individual (existential) experiences
Scripture teaches us (1 Corinthians 12:12,13) that when we are saved we are automatically baptized into the Body of Christ and made to partake of one body. Thus, even in our individual salvation experience we cannot detach our life from the Body of Christ. In spite of this truth, most people attend church services today for an existential experience they perceive will benefit them. Consequently, our present culture has reduced the biblical concept of the Body of Christ to individual subjective experiences, in which a believer picks and chooses, enters and leaves, local churches, merely for a “spiritual” experience. Furthermore, we should also take into account that the church is primarily a family of families and is called “the household of faith” by Paul in Galatians 6:10. This has vast implications because in a biological family people are not together just to have good experiences, but to serve each other, love each other, and work together in spite of any disagreements they may have. We need to view the church organically and conceptually as a family, not merely a gathering place for good spiritual feelings.
6-Biblically we are to pray as a corporate body/ Today we only pray positioned as individuals
Jesus taught us to pray “Our Father who lives in heaven” but most Christians today pray “My Father…..” In the Old Testament, both Daniel (chapter 9:5) and Nehemiah (chapter 1:6,7) prayed to God and said “we have sinned”; hence, identifying corporately with the sin of their faith community even though they themselves were not guilty of such transgressions. These examples clearly show us not only how to pray – but that these biblical leaders viewed themselves in the context of their spiritual family. The success of their faith community was their success and the sins of their faith community was their sin. Presently, when the typical believer sees something they don’t agree with in their local church, they immediately detach themselves from it, leave the church and talk bad about them. There is very little understanding today of how God views believers together as one body. Biblically, our identity is not just as a son of God but collectively as “sons of God”, or as the corporate son being conformed into the likeness of God’s Only Begotten Son (Romans 8:14,19,29,30).
In conclusion, my prayer is that this article will be a catalyst believers to think through how much we in the body of Christ have incorporated a culturally induced, individualistic mindset upon Christianity. If not changed, this mindset will limit our capacity to edify the church and cap our effectiveness in His Kingdom.
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