Are We Promoting Individualism or Community?

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Is it important for the church to be connected with church history and tradition?  In a recent article in the newspaper (may have been the Wall Street Journal, if not then our local Arizona Republic) documented how the present generation of twenty and thirty year olds were spiritual but not necessarily church-goers.  The article detailed how each individual is searching to find spiritual fulfillment but not in the context of community.  There was a desire for individual independence and reliance upon self in that search rather than any institutional affiliation. How should the church address this issue if it wants to continue to be relevant in our society?  Is being part of a denomination important?  If so, why is it? (That is an essay question for elders.)

I am of the opinion that young people increasingly so have very little interest in history and for some it has no relevance.  Watching a quiz show on Television recently, the question was asked by the host for the contestants to place in historical order the following events:  Civil War, War of 1812, the Revolutionary War, and the Vietnam War.  One individual thinking out loud thought the “Revolutionary War” had to do with women’s suffrage.  They were unable to correctly answer the question.  In a gadget filled world, my impression is that our present generation and those that follow will be more interested in contemporary moments than how the past relates to the present and future. 

Individual spirituality is fine.  But if we do not have it in the context of present and past community, I believe we will never be challenged to grow in our faith.  The faith of our forefathers is both rich and instructive.  I have always maintained that denominationalism creates accountability, healthy dialogue and historical perspective.  I wonder if as a denomination we continue to emphasis the concept of “Communion of the Saints” as an important element in our church.

Specifically, how is your church challenging the independent minds of our young people to be connected with the church universal?  How much of the rich history of theology and activity of the church do they receive in the context of your church education program (if they are attending public school, rest assured, there is a void in their education)?

Waiting to hear from the elders!

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Thank you for your questions on this topic, Al. With all due respect, I have to answer no to your question on the importance of being connected with church history and tradition. While there is no question that the CRC denomination has a rich history and tradition, expecting our younger members as well as newer members to spend a lot of time on these topics is not what church should be about. I find your title for this post interesting - "Are We Promoting Individualism or Community?" I'd like to suggest that too often we have a tendency to "Promote Denominationalism" through an emphasis on doctrine and church history, instead of "Promoting Christ" through an emphasis of living out our faith within our extended communities. I have been a life long member, almost 56 years, of the CRC and I am just now learning how to reach out to the suffering, homeless, those with disabilities. When Christ was with His followers, He spent more time teaching them by example and by encouraging them to "practice" what they were learning, rather than by studying in a classroom. They learned and practiced loving God and their neighbors. They learned how to reach out with the Gospel, how to disciple the converts and then how to encourage the new followers to reach out to their communities and practice what they had learned.

As the church, we need to be doing the same thing. Our pastors need to be discipling leaders who then go out and disciple others. Our young people, as well as everyone else, need to experience the excitement and frustrations which the first disciples experienced when they were sent out. Placing emphasis on our history will not challenge us to grow in our faith, but placing emphasis on relying on the Holy Spirit to help us as we attempt to reach out and share the love of Jesus will help us to grow in our faith. I am convinced that our young people want to be more than hearers - they want to be doers. It is the mandate of the church to challenge the community of believers to get out of the pews. If we begin to take this mandate more seriously, we will be blessed beyond our wildest dreams.

Blessings,

Steve

Steve, you make a valid point(s), but I think we need to strike a balance.  The Bible is filled with the concept of "fellowship, community".  It is also reminds us to seek sound doctrine, to remember history, and recounts the ones who were faithful in the past.  I believe knowing what the reformation is all about enriches my personal faith, reading the Catechism question and answer 1 enriches my faith, reading the past theologians, and authors such as C.S. Lewis enriches my faith.  If your past was one in which you lacked the ability to spread the Gospel in Word and Deed then you ought to find ways to build up what you consider a shortcoming of the past but not at the expense of sound theology and community building.

My point is that today spirituality is nebulous and undefined with no knowledge of the past.

Al