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"No man is an island" is an even truer statement than you might think.

I think, therefore I am. One simple phrase that Descartes penned helped define a worldview for a future generation.

No longer would humanity be fettered with group-think, old wives’ tales and crude explanation. No, we would be released into the glorious future of rationalistic reasoning and society would soar to new heights.

Centuries have passed, technology has thrived and yet there is trouble in paradise. Behind every great historical advance, unintended consequences lurk.

With the establishment of rationalistic philosophy, we began to view ourselves as autonomous creatures. We think for ourselves, so we decide what is true, right and godly, correct?

The proof is in the proverbial pudding of the failings of this idea. When combined with consumerism, the product has been crumbling communities, failing marriages and a general sense of narcissistic ennui.

Individualism, the insidious little idea that “I am a rock, I am an island,” is the predominant theory of authority in our day even in the church. The problem is that the Bible, our experience and common sense would cry false.

Consider the implications of our salvation that Peter highlights in 1 Peter 3:

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 1 Peter 2:9-10 ESV

Our salvation in Christ is radically communal—we are a part of a people, whether we like it or not. We fight like crazy against this idea, but it does not make it untrue. Most of us know we belong to community, we need community, but it grates against our autonomous decision making.

It shows up in how we view church authority as well. Consider the explicit commands of Hebrews:

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Hebrews 13:17 ESV

Just hearing that statement often makes me bristle, and my experience in our church community tells me that others do as well.

Finally, consider Romans 8:14-17:

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

The radical truth of our salvation is that it culminates with our adoption into God’s family. We are sons and daughters of God in Christ! The implication is that we are therefore brothers and sisters, and this is a far stronger, deeper and longer bond than any earthly family has.

What if we fought for the person sitting next to us in the pew, or the person across from us in the group, like they were our actual brother or sister? What if we believed those outside the faith were potentially new family members?

I think a lot would change.  

Todd Engstrom Todd Engstrom serves as the Executive Pastor of Campuses and Communities at The Austin Stone Community Church. He is passionate about the gospel being played out in the context of missional communities and developing leaders who will proclaim and demonstrate the good news of Jesus. He also develops future pastors and church planters through The Austin Stone Institute.

More from Todd Engstrom or visit Todd at http://toddengstrom.com

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  • Tony Roland

    Aahh, The problem with this old line of thinking is this: we humans created in God’s likeness, and each individually formed in our mother’s womb, are not buying what you are selling anymore. God created unique individuals, not herds, individual living stones, not chiseled stone or bricks.
    The church system way to God NEEDS adherents and attendee to be sheep. Churches, not unlike the Tower of Babel religious system, needs a large number of mindless sheep to support all of the labor and finances needed for the leaders to be successful. All in all church people are just another brick in their wall. For a couple years now, I have been asking the Lord how did this happen? THE ANSWER WILL SURPRISE MANY – Church was never God’s idea, this institutional man made religious business system, was never endorsed by Jesus. You cannot “revive it” or “reform it” because it does not belong to Jesus.
    You must look at how it operates, it is a subtle as the serpent. Fear is the primary motivator. Fear that if you leave the herd, and think for yourself, the devil will get you. Fear ( very real fear) that if you have too many questions or disagree with the leadership that you will be ostracized as rebellious, or asked to leave, because you no longer share the pastors “vision”. Try asking for a refund of your tithes if you get kicked out.
    For church to be successful, you need a constant influx of new people. The problem for churches today; people are reading books, and internet post, exposing these church planting and building tactics. The curtain is being drawn back, and people are seeing how they have been duped by the church leaders and the church system all of these years…and you know what, they are not happy, and they are vocal.