What shall I eat? Italian, Chinese, Greek?
In our excessively consumer-oriented and individualistic culture, everything revolves around me. My opinion, my food and clothing preferences, my style of music, my shampoo for my type of hair, my personal fulfillment, … and besides, “I’m worth it.” Facebook and Google constantly analyse me to make sure that the products they propose to me reflect my sensibilities and my personality.
It is not surprising, therefore, that faith is often conjugated or even appropriated in the first person singular. I tell my personal testimony, how I decided to follow Jesus, my new birth, my faith in my Savior, the moment where “I took my baptism”, my personal worship, my church, with my pastor. Moreover, I evaluate my church as a function of my personal development. If I am not well-nourished, not touched enough by the worship time, not sufficiently cared for or encouraged, I sense that the Lord is leading me to another fellowship, more adapted to my needs.
Thus, we make church a place of consuming what satisfies my personal preferences, somewhat like a restaurant that seeks to satisfy the tastes of the client. And the restaurant plays the game well of striving to retain its regular customers, all the while seeking to attract new ones.
Yet, we’re faced with a paradox when we see a gathering of Jesus’ disciples in integrated community together, which is the third stage of our strategy. This stage is indispensable because a movement of the gospel would not exist in our country without the element of community.
On the one hand, the Bible counters this consumer-oriented adaptation of a restaurant by describing a participative integration of a family.
On the one hand, the Bible counters this consumer-oriented adaptation of a restaurant by describing a participative integration of a family. “The Church of God” is never presented as an institution, or a commercial enterprise, but as “the family of God” (1). And this impacts relationships within and without, as well as the process of integration.
The integrated Community of Jesus’ disciples, the local expression of the Church of the living God, is rather the antithesis of individualistic consumerism. In this family, the “we” prevails over the “I”, the interests of others are placed ahead of my own (2). In this family, participation replaces consumption, “one another” rather than my rights and my expectations. Even “my salvation” signifies much more than a personal adoption by my heavenly Father: it incorporates me into a family around “one God and Father of all” (3). Thus, salvation, walking with God, being transformed into the image of Jesus is much more of a collective process. The Church is not an institution at my service. The Church is us at the service of others.
The family of God becomes the preferred place for both personal and collective growth and blossoming, from the welcoming of the new “child in Christ” to the growing of each one into a mature adult in the image of our big brother, Jesus. The family of God is also a space where lost children, prodigal sons, can experience the love of the Father in action. The Gospel must become once more a family good news.
On the other hand, the Church as a family will integrate its children and will therefore naturally reflect their cultural identity.
On the other hand, and this is the paradox, if the Church as a family, instead of having as a vocation to please its clients will integrate its children, she therefore naturally reflects their cultural identity. Each family is different. Each family distinguishes itself by its habits, its history, its traditions, but also its roots in its context. The manner of expressing and of living out brotherly love colors the cultural context. Family love expresses itself differently in a Germanic, Latin or Asian culture. Therefore, the family of God in its particular expression, local or tribal (4), will integrate cultural codes in its own context. The integrated Community of Jesus’ disciples will manifest its authenticity from its relationship to the Father and to its context.
So there you have it, the third stage of our strategic movement. After the incarnation of the gospel of Jesus in the world that surrounds us, as a result of walking with and shaping disciples, naturally comes the gathering of disciples in integrated Communities. In response to the prevailing individual consumerism, we want to live this reciprocity of God’s family, at the heart of our culture, like a foretaste of the Kingdom that’s coming.
(1) 1 Timothy 3:15 (2) 1 Corinthians 10:24 (3) Ephesians 4:6 (4) A tribal Community gathers itself around a common interest, passion or common life situation (for example, motorcycle club, students, retirees, business men/women, etc.).