Howard Kellett
How does culture impact us as disciples of Jesus?

It’s perhaps a truism in understanding culture that “It’s hard to see the water you are swimming in.”  As I read and researched for the G1 series on Divine Sex, it became clear that western culture swims in the water of Expressive Individualism.

Radical expressive individualism in the sphere of identity means that ‘given’ or ‘received’ views of the self are spurned in favour of self-generated definitions. We discover ourselves ‘within’ ourselves, repudiating external authorities and creating our own meaning and form of life. Here the self is positioned as both creator and autonomous authority of its own destiny. Glynn Harrison. University of Bristol

 Expressive individualism not only shapes society’s view of sexuality as individually defined, but also impacts our life within the church as disciples of Jesus. As Jesus followers we have surrendered our autonomy to him; he shapes our identity and defines our destiny. That means as disciples of Jesus we frequently need to have those character conversations where we are receiving challenge from the outside our individual bubble. At Godfirst our three’s need to not only provide support but also lovingly challenge each individual.

Belonging to the church community means we see ourselves not as Individuals, or tight biological families, interacting with an external institution but as an extended family of disciples. How are we doing on making this mindset shift? One way is to examine how we react when somebody in the church community or leadership challenges us. Do we receive gospel challenges about our time and money with open disciples’ hearts or do we find our individualism rising up and pushing back? When it comes to Sundays does the unseen water of expressive individualism mean: we’ll attend when we want, we’ll park where we want, sit where we want, serve if we want, give if we want and even only respond to the sermon if we so choose.

As God’s church we live the counter cultural lives of Jesus’ disciples, we centre ourselves not within ourselves but outwardly on Jesus. And the discipleship method Jesus has given us to do this is the community of the church. Let’s not let the culture shape us in its individualistic image – Romans 12:2 – but image the one God who has forever dwelt in loving the community of Father, Son and Spirit.