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Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 4

Let's look again at an incredible barrier in the West to missional community - individualism. Christopher Kaiser is key here in understanding individualism, and therefore its ramifications. He gives us this definition:

“By ‘individualism,’ I do not mean self-reliance or independence of mind and action… What it means to be an individual is a matter of social definition – the definition of one’s self in relation to others…Traditional individuals understood themselves and related to others primarily as members of a group… Modern individuals will have none of this. We painstakingly differentiate ourselves from our families, our upbringings, and our job.

…the societal world… is perceived as something external, even alien, to us” (Hunsberger 1996:95,96)

With this kind of individualism comes an inherent sense of alienation from the communal. And alienation engenders isolation. James Smith notes that the “modernist isolationist understanding of the human self has often crept into the church” (Smith 2006:56). This individualism, and therefore growing sense of alienation, can greatly affect our context by luring us away from understanding and applying what it means to be a missional community. This creeping effect of individualistic isolation is a cancer to missional community.

But how should we respond?

Hunsberger, George R. and Van Gelder, Craig.1996. The Church Between Gospel and Culture: The Emerging Mission in North America. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co.

Smith, James K.A. 2006. Who’s Afraid of Postmodernism? Taking Derrida, Lyotard and Foucalt to Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group.

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image: Reaching Out To Me - originally uploaded by Kevin Day

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