“The church is an ecclesia, which means an assembly that has been called out in a public way as a sign, witness, and foretaste of where God is inviting all creation in Jesus Christ. The church, in its life together and witness in the world, proclaims the destiny and future of all creation. Local congregations are embodiments of where God is calling all creation to be through the power of the Spirit. The God we meet in Jesus calls the church to be a community of people who no longer live for themselves and their own needs but as a contrast society whose life together manifests God’s future for the whole of creation.
As a contrast society, the church is formed around beliefs and practices, which continually school and form it in a way of life, which cannot be derived from the particular culture in which it is found. The culture in which we find ourselves, and within which we are called to be that people, is now designated as late-modern or postmodern. It is a context where the explicit story is that everyone lives within his or her own expressive rights. We live in a context where it is simply assumed that the operative and appropriate means of living in a tolerant and open society is to create environments, which do not step on or over any specific set of personal rights, feelings or wants. This is part of the madness of the needs-centered, seeker-driven mentality of the church. These approaches actually believe they are faithful to the tradition when, in fact, they undermine the elements essential for missional faithfulness. We want to affirm everyone’s need for personal autonomy to such a degree that we have lost the resources provided by Scripture and great tradition to shape, form and create a people as a contrast society.”
Recently, (while speaking of what it means to belong to a faith community) I have heard it said, our culture is swept up in elevating the rights of the one at the expense of the whole (we have become narcissists in search for personal autonomy) however, in the community of faith it is often the opposite, we elevate the whole at the expense of the one, folks lose themselves and don’t know how to differentiate in a way to belong inter-dependently.
Years ago a very wise person suggested that the “one” and the “whole” always are held in tension. There are times when a person is in intensive care and is dependent on the whole. But most of the time, part of our ability to heal is in our ability to give, to serve, to follow the example of Jesus self-sacrificing love. Elizabeth O’Connor, scribe for the Church of the Savior has much to say about the tension of belonging to community and healing our true selves in many of her books.