Our church is trying to shake sinful individualism and move into steady state communities. We are having some success and some failure. The success is very life-giving, exciting, church-like. I ran across this quote by Dallas Willard that gets at our aim in cultivating steady state community:
Among those who live as Jesus’ apprentices there are no relationship that omit the presence and action of Jesus. We never go “one on one;” all relationships are mediated through him. I never think simply of what I am going to do with you, to you, or for you. I think of what we, Jesus and I, are going to do with you, to you, and for you. Likewise, I never think of what you are going to do with me, to me, and for me, but of what will be done by you and Jesus with me, to me, and for me. – The Divine Conspiracy, 236
If we would think of ourselves less as individuals and more as persons in community, our decision-making and discipleship would change radically. It has been said there is no pure individual. Its’s true. No man an island to himself. We all possess the seed of community, but supress or substitute it for other things. Solitary experiences and virtual forms of community, no matter how wonderful, do not sum up or satisfy our social identity as persons-in-community. The Triune God saw to that when he made us. If the American church could recover that social identity and harness it to gospel-centered mission, the world would be a very different place.
Fortunately, failure in Christian community points us back to the sufficiency of the Jesus. Our success reminds us that the Spirit of Jesus is powerful and counter-cultural. Jesus is strong for our successes and sufficient for our failure in striving for steady state community and gospel-centered mission.