Monday, March 14, 2011

Reflections on a culture of noncommitment

One of the biggest challenges for me that I think is driven by our culture is the lack of commitment to anything - institutions or people - that people have.

I canceled another Encounters with Jesus storying group last night because at least half the group couldn't come.  In some ways, that's ok.  I like that we're a small enough group meeting together that it matters who is there.  I like that without you, the group is not the same and we're better off postponing until later.

The reality of our culture is that it's really rare for there to be a group or an institution that people identify enough with to make sacrifices to be a part of it.  I don't think we do it in marriage, because we're basically ready to get divorced when things don't work for us anymore, regardless of the fact that there is something beautiful and important about the family.  I don't think we do it in our jobs - our companies don't have loyalty to us, and we don't have loyalty to them.  We don't have this for our schools - we are only concerned about what they give to us as individuals.

I come from a collectivist culture - that's what it was for me to live in Singapore.  It was diametrically opposed to how we do life here.  In Singapore, the family is much more important than the person.  The nation is way more important than individuals within it.  You make sacrifices so that the group can be what it needs to be.

There are inherent positives and negatives about both cultures, and ultimately neither is probably better.  But one of the struggles I have right now in my context is to build momentum.  I want to the church to be inherently beautiful and engaging and something that's bigger than the individual.  I believe that Jesus calls us to participate in mission and ministry and life that is bigger than our individual needs or desires.  I think that together, if we can be the right kind of community, we can do much more than we do as individuals.

Maybe there's a way to change the approach - maybe we should only get together when everyone can come and maybe we need to change the time from week to week.  I don't know.  What I do know is that setting it up so that group is more important than the individuals in it isn't going to work right now.  Maybe someday, when people are willing to sacrifice for group.  But I don't think that we're there yet, in my particular group.

So, we're still trying to navigate what that looks like for us.  We've got to figure out how to build people into the kind of community that becomes important enough to the individuals that we're willing to sacrifice for it.

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