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Spiritual Formation & The American Dream - What Matters Most is the Individual

Updated: Mar 23, 2020

In the Introduction to this short series, I shared the idea that we are all being formed to value American ideals. Some of which line up well with the teachings of Jesus, and others don’t. In this and the next post, I hope to explore two things we value which can make it challenging to be formed by Jesus.

Maybe more than anything, we value the Individual. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “The only person you are destined to become, is the person you decide to be.” Similarly, Matt Nagy, the head coach of my beloved Chicago Bears, has this simple reminder in big bold letters on his playbook, “BE YOU.” It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, we are told to do what we believe is best for us.

In the digital age we live in, everything can be tailored to the individual. I can listen to professional speakers that advocate values I hold, my source of news and information can come from the media and blogs that line up with my worldview, and there’s an app for any of my favorite activities (Thanks to Spotify, I never have to listen to a song I don’t like).

The ideal of the individual has even creeped into our churches. It’s common for us to tell our pastors what we like and don’t like about each service because we want an experience that creates the most value for us. Many churches have inadvertently fed into this individualistic mindset. In our attempt to create community with small groups, we often communicate the value the group brings to the individual, rather than the value the individual brings to the group through their Spiritual Gifts, sacrifices, and service. Granted, each individual does receive value, but only when we practice the commands to love one another well.

Why is this so important?

Because if we want to make disciples like Jesus did, we have to embrace His command to die to self:

Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. - Luke 9:23-24

Next week, we’ll look at another value that sometimes prevents us from making disciples like Jesus did. Organization and Over-structuring Everything

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