I continually find myself frustrated and aggravated with modern Christianity. It is not one specific denomination or group, it is a predominate reality that very few people are educated about the Church. This often leads to false perceptions and expectations of God, and leads those outside the Church astray into believing that the Church is something its not. There are many reasons for this mistaken view of the Church, but the one that I believe is the most dangerous, and damaging is the individualization of faith.
Individualism was one of the great triumphs of the renaissance and modernism. It is wonderful to consider individual rights, and treating everyone with proper respect and dignity, but as with all ideas, there is a dark side tagging around. Individualism no longer means that each person has inherent dignity, now it means that the highest good is the individual. A long list of societal and political woes can be made because ‘I’ and ‘me’ have become our most favored pronouns, but my concern is with the Church. Individualism has crept into the Church in the form of individualizing God and our relationship to Him. The view of ‘me and my god’ is overwhelmingly present in the Church, at least in America. Congregation’s have begun to cease the proclamation of the Gospel and who God is, and instead now proclaim an individualized god, an individualized gospel. I have had the odd chance of traveling a lot and experiencing congregations across the US and it disheartens me the number of congregations that get the individualized gospel of “believe in God and he’ll make your life turn out alright”.
Christians have forgotten what it means to be the body of Christ. We have forgotten what it means to have a communal faith, a faith shared by the saints in heaven and here below. Faith is now about myself, in a room with my Bible and God, about praying and having God answer with warm tingly feelings. And if we cant get those experiences we cry to God and ask what is going on, why is my ‘individual walk with God’ going so rough. The reason is, there is no ‘individual walk with God’! The road of Faith is one filled with the communion of saints, it is one populated by those who have gone before us, those who come after us, and those who walk with us. When we suffer the body suffers, when the body suffers we suffer.
A few years ago I was suffering severe depression after my grandmother’s death, and I told my pastor that I wasn’t planning on coming to Church because I couldn’t bring myself to sing songs of praise when all I was doing was mourning. He replied that even when we cannot seem to sing praise, and we are in mourning, the Body is there to lift up songs of Praise, songs of Mourning and songs of intercession on our part. The One True Faith, is one shared by the body of Christ. It is not some individual path. God is not revealed by sitting alone with a Bible in some wilderness, God is revealed in the assembly, proclamation, and work of the Church. It is when we assemble and hear the Word proclaimed to us and for us that God is revealed.
There is a lack of strong Ecclesial theology in the Church in America, and not only does this lack harm the Church’s members by not doing its job of proclaiming Christ crucified for us, it also hurts its mission to the world. Individualism is a plague upon the Church, and its cure is for the Church teach and educate its members in its ecclesial nature. The American Church must reform or else it will follow Europe to the same depressing end.
If the Church is to survive and succeed in its mission of proclaiming Christ crucified we must stop going along with society and falling into all the popular ideologies. The Church plagued by individualism, must start healing by having individuals reject the lie that the self is the most important thing. Only by the death of self will the individual find life.