Community VS. the Individual, by Jeremy Benson

The dichotomy between community and individualism is an ever-present conflict in church culture. In the west, individualism clearly wins out in the church, presumably due to the historical influence of the hero independent ego archetype that is so European in character. In eastern incarnations of the faith, collectivism permeates the church in a greater way. This analysis aims to discover how to resolve this issue in the Church. 

Individualism and collectivism are present in the Bible. God clearly focuses on individual leadership throughout the Bible, sometimes in ways that are unpalatable even by today’s western standards, foreshadowing the kingship of Christ. Figures like Moses leading in a literal sense or Elijah carrying out God’s will on earth despite corrupt governmental authority are clear to see. Conversely, we see groups of people being  judged societally like the Egyptians and the Churches of Revelation. The new testament Church demonstrated collectivism in sharing resources, and individual responsibility in issues like tithing. Christ specifically refers to leading people as a Shepherd leads a flock in John 10:27, but then states that he leaves the 99 to pursue the one lost sheep in Matthew 18:12. A contextually incomplete interpretation of the Bible without holistic perspective might at first appear contradictory; however, experience with God’s word reveals its balanced nature. Some have accused the Bible of contradicting itself and fail to see that it actually confronts issues from many sides–because God is an omnipotent God, knowing that certain members of the church would take collectivism to an extreme and others individualism too far. 

The local church, in our society, has taken on a hyper individualist form. Despite the appearance of complex denominations that distribute responsibility, the Church in the western world has fallen prey to the egotism of its local culture in many ways. This has led to embracing a nebulous undefined version of the love of God, but rejecting the Holy reverential Fear of God. This has developed, in part, because of the lack of accountability in the present self-promotion culture. This improper teaching and practice of the Faith has had the following effects on the average Christian. The western Christian seeks personal short-term emotional gratification from church on a social level, avoiding painful personal growth at the expense of community. The western Christian has forsaken his or her duties to contribute to the local church financially, spiritually, physically, and emotionally seeking instead what they can gain from Church. Also, the western Christian has disengaged from promoting a Christian world view in society through government, business technology, entertainment, and  etc . . . because they are unwilling to face the immediate social consequence of speaking up for Christ in these areas. Of course, not all Christians meet this description; nonetheless, a simple numerical comparison between the number of people in America that proclaim Christianity as their faith, around two thirds, and the state of society reveals the selfishness that has infected much of the Church. 

What can an individual Christian do about this root issue in the Church? Christ was clear that you would know an individual or allegorically any organization or belief system by its fruit. 

  • The church must pursue all of the fruit, not just the first three, and actively attack the fruit of the flesh. This must be done individually and as a congregation. 

  • The Church must return to its first love and make loving God and loving people it’s first and second priorities once again.

  • The Christian must ask him or herself how to surrender to healthy authority and contribute to the local body, not just receive from it.

  • Ultimately, the in-working of the Holy Spirit is necessary to give every Christian victory over the bondage of fallen desires in order to express Christ’s likeness in a supernatural way.