Thursday, December 16, 2004

Isolation and Community

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.


Fajita said...

I think you are on to something here. Individuals sitting next to each other on Sundays is a dramatically different situation than a community who sends out its memebrs. Community is more than membership - especially since most church memebrship requirements are either next to nothing, or are agreement to moral codes and doctrinal statements. There has got to be more to this Christian life than this.

Doug Pagitt's book called, "Reimagining Spiritual Formation" speaks a similar message. The church he pastors, Solomon's Porch, in Minneapolis is seeking to be a community who is always forming spiritually in community.

I reccommend this book to anyone seeking to expand their view of community and/or spiritual formation.

john chandler said...

Regarding your first paragraph, I don't agree. To be an introvert does not make you an isolationist. It means that you draw strength from being alone, but it doesn't necessarily mean you prefer to be alone or that you shun relationships. I too am in introvert, but find that my time alone propels me back toward spending time with people. I spend time alone to recharge so that I can bring the most I can to the messy world of relationships we all encounter. I suspect if you evaluate, you will find a similar framework in your life as well.

As for your second paragraph, I completely agree. No where in the Scriptures do we find the idea of a 'personal' Lord and Savior. The stress on the individual relationship with Jesus has created that consumer version of Christianity that we see today.

Adam said...

I think you are right. Being an introvert does not make one an isolationist. Also, I did not mean to cast introverts in a negative light (when I re-read my post I realized that it could be taken that way). Thanks for your comments

I have Pagitt's book, but have not read it yet. It is on my "read soon" list though.

john chandler said...

I didn't meant to say your comments were negative or that I was offended because I'm an introvert. Sorry if I came across that way. I simply wanted to give you a little more perspective from what I've figured out about myself. I love to spend time with people, and I need to spend time alone -- they aren't mutually exclusive for me.

I'll also second the recommendation on Pagitt's book. Good stuff.

Gilbert said...

Adam, I totally agree. I have been convicted over the last year or so about the importance that bible places on community. A great book that you need to read, if you haven't already, is called A Peculiar People. It was written by Rodney Clapp. He talks a lot about community in that book.

Lisa said...

I don't think this is a case of choosing one over the other, community versus individual relationship. On the contrary, I think it's a matter of balance.

Look at the ministry of Jesus. He certainly surrounded Himself with men and women, a community, with whom He could have fellowship. Yet there were also times where He retreated to secluded places alone to pray and commune with His Father. JESUS certainly had a personal relationship with God, so why shouldn't we?

Taking our cues from Him, I think we ALL (regardless of how we classify our personalities) need that fellowship and community with fellow Christians, and we also need to take the time to get alone and spend time with the Father one-on-one. I find that when I do get alone I'm able to "recharge my batteries", so to speak, and that enables me to spend more time on a community level, ministering to others.

I spent many, many years doing "community"-type things, even ministry/service work, and yet neglected my relationship with Christ, and as a result, my service to community greatly suffered and ultimately caused some burn-out. We need that balance, that time alone with God and that time with others. It's a cycle that feeds off each other. Neglect one area, and the other will suffer.

Adam said...

Hi Lisa,
Thanks for your comment. I am not at all proposing an end to "alone time" with God. Quite the contrary. I think times of seclusion and meditation are vital to living as the person God created us to be. What I am referencing is more how we present "the Gospel" or Christianity to people initially...our means of bringing them into the family of God. If I was unclear on that point, I apologize. My point about the "personal Lord and Savior" stuff was simply to give an example of how our (non-Biblical) language betrays our individualistic mindset.