Old Stuff – Biblical Individualism

Number 6


Our church has recently been hashing through the relationship of mission and community, and its practical implications for our church body. It sounds like the diagnosis has been made: The American church for the most part has lost its mission, and our communities of faith have reflected that either by neglect of the “Go therefore and make disciples” (more fundamentalist and introverted churches) or by disregard for the “teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you” (more mainline denominational or liberal type churches).

From conversations I’ve had with our pastoral staff, it seems like we are arriving at the point that “community is the vehicle for mission”. Pushing just a little deeper into the idea, I asked why? The conclusion I arrive at is this: a missional community is the outflow of a covenantal community composed of individuals whose identity is found in Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is evidence of the total saturation of my mind by “individualistic” western thought, but I’m not sure I can see community aside from its composition of individuals. I’ll try to explain where I’m going with this, but it’s not entirely clear in my mind just yet, and I need some help fleshing it out.

I’ve been starting to think through how the Doctrine of Justification and the Atonement fit into this discussion. If we begin to think that community is something more than the sum total of its parts, I think something (to my knowledge, which isn’t incredibly deep) there needs to be something more than simply particular redemption and forensic justification of individuals. It seems like if you affirm that community is something that exists outside the context of individuals, you are almost forced to come up with a view of the atonement which provides for some general redemption. I guess my question runs along these lines: Is our corporate identity as a body with Christ as our head somehow something more than just the composition of individuals whom Christ has redeemed? I realize this may seem semantic and I’m probably not explaining my thoughts perspicaciously, but I think I need some help sorting through the rat’s nest of my brain.

Theologians, help.

By Todd Engstrom

Although I was raised in the church and had a knowledge of God, I didn’t embrace Jesus until I heard gospel preached and lived out by some Young Life leaders. God has proven faithful and good to me since that day, even in great suffering and loss. I have learned to treasure Romans 8:28 as a wellspring of hope and truth.

God has blessed me with an amazing wife (Olivia), three sons (Micah, Hudson and Owen) and a daughter (Emmaline). Growing up in the northwest, the thought never crossed my mind that I would have four children who are native Texans. Despite landing in the south, I still watch Notre Dame games with my children every Saturday in hopes they will land at my alma mater.

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