Saturday, April 29, 2006

Individualism and the Church

One of the scariest trends in the American evangelical church movement confronted me again this week at the church planting conference. I'm afraid that individualism sits at the heart of much of what is happening in the church today. While God is using many new church planters to reach people for the kingdom, I'm a little nervous about the proliferation of individual church planting movements and all-alone church planters. I think we are seeing in our lifetime the natural progression of a fully developed philosophy of individualism. No one wants to work within denominations or established systems and so they naturally create new systems. Ironically, as Barna points out in his new book, Revolution, many Christians are beginning to say the same things about the church - "why do I need the church and leaders to help me grow spiritually? I can grow more and become more like Christ on my own." More and more people are following the lead of church leaders and separating from church "systems" and doing church on their own. This progression is fascinating to me, and even seems to be driving some of my peers (who feels this and desire deep historical roots and systems of authority) toward ancient forms of faith (Catholicism and Orthodoxy). I am not anywhere near that extreme, but I do think it shows our need as church leaders to incarnationally lead in the area of submission to authority and life in community. How can we expect people in our churches to submit to our leadership and commit themselves to the living community of believers if we are not modeling those values ourselves?

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