Random Thoughts on Groups and Individuals

It's a scary thing when corporate identity is defined solely by the preferences of individuals. Groups that define themselves solely by the preferences of each individual in the group are destined to be fickle, unstable, and lacking in depth because preferences change based on circumstances and other variables that are ever-changing.

The United States is fast becoming a country defined solely by the preferences of individuals, which is a different kind of democracy than I read in the writings of the founders. The founders wanted the United States to be known for freedom and democracy, not for the particular outworkings of that freedom and democracy, and there's a big difference.

I was just listening to some of the coverage of the war on the radio. Frankly, I get tired of listening to the news, but I tend to listen because it gives me a barometer on the parts of society I wouldn't ever be able to see otherwise. Right now, as I'm sure you know, approval ratings for the war are in the tank. The funny thing is, as best I can tell, it has nothing to do with whether or not the war is going well. Instead, it seems to be about whether or not people feel as though we should be in the war. They're tired of it. They're bored. They're ready to move on. So they don't approve of the war. It has nothing to do with the ideals the war is seeking to protect (or destroy). It has nothing to do with an over-arching value, but instead is all about a personal preference.

I'm always in search of ways that the church can be visibly different from the culture without being weird, and this is one. As a church, our corporate identity is defined despite our individual preferences. In fact, we're challenged to lay aside our personal preferences for the sake of the group identity. Philippians 2:3 says "Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves."

Frankly, this is why I have a hard time with a "congregational rule" form of Church government. It's not for strong biblical reasons, or because I don't think people should have a say in what happens within their church. But a congregational form of government can quickly dissolve into a process where the church as a whole defines its identity on the basis of personal preferences. That's a problem for me.

The church was never meant to be identified by the weighing of individual preferences. It was meant to be a group identified by the laying aside of personal preferences for the common good. Our society doesn't get how or why we would ever exist that way. And frankly, many of our church members don't get it either. But we are supposed to be different - united around a common set of values and goals found in Scripture. The particular outworking of those values are strictly a matter of personal preference, and we ought to be eager to lay those aside so that we can present a unified Body that is defined not by what we do or how we feel about what we do, but by who we are.


GUNNY said...

One of the hardest challenges I've found in pastoral ministry is try to help people distinguish between

1. Biblical mandates
2. Biblical principles (drawn from Scripture) and
3. preferences

Where do folks spend most of their time fighting and energy of persuasion?

Oh yeah, number 3.

Doyle said...

Hey Chris its Michael from ACC.
And I really agree with this I mean i know for a fact that if the people at school or church would be in more agreement about just the little things life would be ALOT more peaceful. Now I would also say that if everyone had the same political views and those political views were just, well we would be in the war right because the situation right now in the middle east is not anywhere around where it should be. I mean when girls who are raped are executed because they are now ruined and wasted their has to be something done yet our society just doesnt get that.

Well so how is it going?