Sunday, October 19, 2014

Private Faith in Today's Church: Is the Egg Preceding the Chicken?

Having exited my mother's birth canal onto what very possibly might've been the pew of a Baptist church and being raised in a Bapto-charismatic environment, I grew up in the bubble of evangelical if not fundamental Christendom. I learned that church attendance was theoretically synonymous with Christian fellowship. As I entered into the professional world of church work, i.e.,pastoring, I promoted attendance at my church for the well intended reason that one could not live as a follower of Jesus without being in community with other believers, which of course, meant going to church in general and my church in particular.

What I'm afraid this cultivates in the attending believers is an unhealthy co-dependence on the leader and perhaps other believers for one's personal spiritual health. Instead of bringing a growing personal faith journey that can be examined, challenged and encouraged, I'm afraid that most people who make church attendance so important rarely have enough "closet time" with God to allow for deeply honest introspection- the kind that can be independent if necessary. Instead, and perhaps unwittingly, people depend on the faith of whoever they believe, or are led to believe, has a faith that in their opinion, is healthier than their own.

The model used in churches does not allow for anything other than co-dependent faith. Whoever is up front- pastor, worship leaders, etc.- are naturally assumed to be at a place in their faith journey that permits a pew sitter without a personal faith to lob on to whatever is oozing from the platform. The church goer leaves each service hoping that the faith they vicariously experienced at church will carry them through another week without much personal effort on their part.

I am at a point where I wonder if our emphasis on community, i.e., fellowship, has usurped it's appropriate role in the order of Christian citizenship. Being together with like minded people on a similar trajectory may find its most useful and appropriate place when experienced after personal faith is birthed and growing. Instead of a co-dependent and weak discipleship, one would experience the health of an inter-dependent gathering in which all participants understand that the need for community is a result of a personal faith and not necessarily dependent on it.

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