Friday, May 30, 2008

Individualism, Hospitality, Missions & Evangelism

Mark Driscoll, a pastor of young church in Seattle, in his recently written book, The Radical Reformission critiques our individualistic culture stating,

“people are increasingly busy, isolated, lonely, disconnected, and without any helpful solutions in the culture. The isolation is now so entrenched that many people don’t know how to practice hospitality. This trend is even reflected in new architecture, which replaces large dining and living rooms designed for human contact with walk-in closets, home offices, and personal entertainment rooms. Here lonely people can watch sitcoms about friendships and reality-based shows in which characters pretend to interact with human beings, a thing apparently fascinating and foreign to many lonely, isolated individuals…Meanwhile, our neighbors, whom we do not know, are spending their evenings in much the same way.”[1]

Boersma would confer that individualism has distorted hospitality. The introspectiveness and the privatization of religion has turned the church itself inward as well as an exclusive group of individuals. The hospitality of God, through the good news of Christ, chose not to regard his own rights with personal advantage, instead invites all to come. However, the individualistic self or community is a danger to true hospitality because such an offering of self is largely unheard of. For the inward looking individual and community hospitality, if offered at all, likely bears a utilitarian nature of exchange. Hospitality is offered as a selfish quest for recognition or where the gift is tied to expectation.[2] The cross marks a profound danger in true hospitality, but for the receiving individual of such a strange grace from another it is an open door to abuse and consumption by the individual.

Evangelism and Missions
If religion is solely a matter of individual conscience, evangelism could be a very difficult thing. When all beliefs are on equal grounds, tolerance may grant one a hearing of the case for Christianity, but final belief is up to the individual. Depending upon the means of evangelism, it may be easily construed as the oppressive authoritarian structures of the church dictating what one must believe. If seen from that perspective, the individual is likely to dismiss it easily if an individual even has the courage to broach the subject of faith and thus breeching “good social manners.” The inwardly turned collection of individuals is not likely thinking about doing evangelism or missions either except recruiting more from their target audience. It is again the lifestyle enclave.

[1] Mark Driscoll, The Radical Reformission: Reaching Out Without Selling Out, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2004), 81-82. Driscoll is often lumped in with the Emergent but he would distance himself from that group and the subtitle is likely a shot in their direction.
[2] Boersma, 210.