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Why community and mission aren't easy - pt. 5

Let's continue looking at a barrier to missional community - individualism - and it's effect on mission:

James Smith notes that “modernity is characterized by a deep individualism that isolates us from one another, sealed up in our little egos or private spheres” (Smith 2006:56). Our primary identity, however, should be that of a covenant community. Inagrace Dietterich attests to what happens when we as a community do not utilize our prophetic voice in speaking out against this individualism:

“If the dualism of… private/public… is uncritically presupposed, the biblical images of the corporate nature of the Christian faith… and of its mission to proclaim and embody the new ‘society’ of the Kingdom of God will be profoundly undermined, distorted and misrepresented” (Hunsberger 1996:354)

Notice that Dietterich stated that the nature of the faith and the mission will be undermined. This is another way that individualism lures us away from missional community, namely, through the bifurcation of mission and community into two separate paradigms, two separate elements and two separate events.

In Transforming Mission, David Bosch points out that “it is the community that is the primary bearer of mission” (Bosch 1991:472). To separate mission from community and community from mission is to distort our communal identity. Even worse, it inherently assumes that mission can be accomplished alone.

Also, if the vehicle for mission is not community, then the support, encouragement, identity, and structure for mission quickly evaporates. And you are left at best with mission junkies who, with an individualistic (and hedonistic, I would say) perspective, jump from one missional event to the next without any kind of communal relationships, accountability, and support. At worst, this bifurcation of community and mission engenders apathy, thereby further deepening the alienation that occurs by virtue of individualistic isolation. Because of the Trinitarian nature of God, Darrell Johnson highlights the fact that “the three great disciplines of discipleship – worship, community, mission – cannot be separated, because they are grounded in the Trinity” (Johnson 2002:69).

Catch up on the "Why community and mission aren't easy" Series:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Bosch, David Jacobus. 1991. Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

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.

Johnson, Darrell W. 2002. Experiencing The Trinity. Vancouver, BC: Regent College Publishing.

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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