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.
C.S. Lewis, the brilliant Oxford and Cambridge professor, observed fifteen differences between the way we are conditioned to think in our modern times, and conflicting ideas, assumptions, and values that those of earlier periods believed to be true. As we identify these differences, it becomes clear that not all new ideas are better. In fact, in these fifteen cases, new certainly does not mean improved!
Sometimes we face real moral dilemmas—doing one thing we ought to do means doing something else we ought not do. What are we to do when we are in these hard spots? Last week I discussed one solution that won’t work. This week I’ll look at a second option that is better than the first, but still not a good solution. Then I’ll offer what I believe to be the best ways to solve these moral dilemmas.
We all want to “do the right thing.” But sometimes that is much easier said than done. What do we do when choosing one right thing also means doing one wrong thing? What do we do when moral duties truly collide? There are three answers offered, but I only think one is realistic in our day-to-day lives.
We all want to be faithful to our Lord’s command to see the gospel permeate and change the world. As Christians, we see countless ways things are not as they should be—people alienated from God, one another, God’s good creation, and even themselves. As a result, they live and lead from non-Christian beliefs and values, which results in shattered lives, fractured families, human trafficking, oppressive regimes, and many other forms of alienation from God and one another.
Last Tuesday I lost one of my heroes. Christian speaker, author, and editor Jim Sire passed “from the land of the dying into the land of the living” to a great reward at age 84. He not only had a massive influence on me and countless others through his many books (such as The Universe Next Door, which is one of four books I suggest each parent read with their children before college), he was also a friend and mentor to me and so many others. We can learn at least three lessons from Jim’s life.