This thirteenth shift in thinking since the Enlightenment is much like the air we breathe–so pervasive that we have a hard time even noticing it. To bring it into focus, last week I surveyed “the way things used to be” prior to the Enlightenment. This week I’ll begin comparing this with how things are after this fateful period of history, and how we are deeply influenced by the Enlightenment’s ideas about science, history, philosophy, ethics, and theology each and every day in our modern world.
A thirteenth shift in thinking that came about during the Enlightenment has surfaced many times in my posts. In fact, a day does not go by that we do not see this new way of thinking bubble up in conversations, news reports, editorials, books, and everywhere else we turn. I am speaking of the way we now assume there is a difference between “facts” and “values” and between “reason” and “faith.” But this has not always been the case.
In the wake of the Enlightenment, we all struggle with a lack of connection to others. Not only has the broader culture become highly individualistic, but so has the church. The small group strategy is a main way to counter this tendency1. While promising, this strategy faces two significant challenges, which I have addressed in my last two posts: difficulty in building deep relationships (often because group members are connected only by geography) and a tendency to deteriorate into a superficial, subjective type of Bible study. I discussed how to address the first challenge two weeks ago; in this post I will propose ways to address the second challenge (though some may not be possible until COVID restrictions subside).
With the Enlightenment’s shift in thinking, we became much more individualistic. This shift has had some positive consequences but quite a few negative results, at both work and church. Last week I discussed one way the church attempts to respond to the loneliness and lack of community experienced by many in local congregations, and some ways we can do better. This week I’ll outline a second problem many small groups face, and the following week I will suggest some solutions.
The Enlightenment caused many shifts in our thinking. Last week, I discussed three ways it changed how we think about involvement in a local church. This week I begin discussing a fourth implication of this excessive individualism–the loss of community in our local churches. I also discuss one way this problem is being addressed via two models, one more effective than the other in my opinion.
The eleventh shift in thinking from the pre-modern to the modern era is from an emphasis on the group to an emphasis on the individual. Last week we saw some of the negative implications of this in our work lives. Has this shift from community to individual fared any better for the church?
We are often asked, “What do you do?” Our response is often something like, “I work at the ABC Widget Company.” This response says volumes about how we see work in our modern milieu. This is an eleventh shift in thinking we must understand.