I've recently had a rather startling realization about myself. I am (in some ways) an isolationist who believes in community. On every personality test I've ver taken, the results have revealed me to be an exact tie between "introvert" and "extrovert". Though you'd never know it if you saw me "on stage", I think I've probably shifted more into the introvert column. I don't think I'm that good at having alot of relationships (although I think I'm pretty good at the few close relationships I have). Even so, I believe with all my heart in community. Let me put it this way: God, at His essesnce is a community (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), so any reflection of Him on Earth MUST be born out in true community. I suppose that makes me somewhat of an enigma(my comfort zone is in a constant argument with my convictions).
On the other hand, the church (or at least any form of it I've ever seen) seems to have the exact opposite problem. They are communities that believe in isolation. We talk about our personal Lord and Savior, our personal "quiet time", our incessant focus on the individual rather than the community, etc. This language seems somewhat foriegn to scripture to me. I don't find it contradictory, per se...just sort of backwards. We seem to see our church communities as the extension of the individuals. In contrast, scripture seems to suggest that individual Christians are extensions of their communities of faith (and those communities are extension of their mission, but that's another subject for another post). Put another way we seem to think of it this way: We individually have similar beliefs, so we come together to "worship" in a manner reflective of those beliefs. Now that we are in a group, we really should do something productive with our resources, right?
Is it possible that the Bible reveals a model of faith communites that turns the way we tend to think of it upside down (or right side up)? What if we are supposed to think of it this way: We have joined a community that is on a mission from God. Our individual lives are an extension of both that mission and that community. "What difference would that make?" one might ask. All the difference in the world.