117 E Elm Street
Rebuilding Communities from the Ashes, Part 2 (excerpts)
Excerpted from Samaritan Ministries - full article here
Theologian Henry Van Til famously said that culture is religion externalized, so what should we expect if year after year we are internalizing an ideology based on "me, myself, and my rights?" We should expect to see a culture where relationships splinter, families are destroyed, and communities decay. We really don't need to wait until someone does a study to tell us that there is more loneliness, more angst, and fewer good, healthy relationships today than there were 50 years ago. It's just obvious. But the question I posed at the end of my first article was, "What can we, as individual Christians and as the Church corporately, do to stop the rot and begin rebuilding communities from the ashes?"
If culture is religion externalized, then the first principle for us in terms of rebuilding communities must be to begin with our relationship with God. …As Christians, we most definitely do have a personal relationship with God and we are all individuals before Him. But when we go to church on a Sunday, we go as a people and not just a collection of individuals. It is more about us and our God than it is about me and my God.
But if we understand the destructive nature that individualism has played in worship, we must also recognize the part that it has played in the destruction of the family. …whereas marriage should be the place where we learn to be unselfish, our culture gives us the message that this is just naïve and, frankly, stupid. The media asks why you would stay with your spouse when you are fed up with her. Situation comedies ask why you would stay together with someone you don't even love. Hollywood asks why you would bother becoming attached in the first place when you can just pick whomever you want, whenever you want, without all the hassles that accompany marriage.
So instead of learning to combat our selfishness, we now learn to indulge it, because we can. …If we want to rebuild communities again, we need to eradicate the cult of individualism from our marriages and our families. We must live like God tells us to live, with husband cleaving to his wife, with wife cleaving to her husband, and with both seeking to be fruitful and to multiply. We need to demonstrate to others that we do not accept the demise of marriage and of families engendered by the sick individualism we see all around us. On the contrary, now more than ever we are going to strive against it, and show that we can make good, happy, lifelong marriages, where we bring up happy, healthy, and joyful children.
If we are to start rebuilding communities, we are going to have to put the Church back into the heart of them. Not physically, necessarily, but certainly symbolically. How do we do this? By starting from the inside and working out. By building a church community that is totally counter-cultural, but whose beauty cannot be denied. Where both young and old worship together in harmony. Where children are respectful to their parents. Where parents really love their children. Where marriages last. Where people give. Where disagreements are handled respectfully. Where help is given to those who need it. Where hospitality abounds. Where there is genuine love.
But it's crucial that we don't stop there. We then take that model out into the community by inviting people to come and join with us. …when they come to these events and see a community of people who genuinely love one another and who really do care for one another, the attraction for them in our Individualistic, atomized, and often very lonely culture is powerful.
In conclusion, I want to urge you to put a lot of thought into how you, your family, and your church might start this much needed process of rebuilding community. …task of rebuilding is an urgent one. Yet it is something that should thrill and inspire us. We serve a God Who delights in robust corporate worship, in strong families, and in thriving church communities. If we strive to invite people to see for themselves what this community looks like, will He not answer our prayers and delight to bless our efforts?