Christian Witness is a Collective Witness
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth and everything within them. After all that God created he gave his divine stamp of approval on what he made declaring that it was good. Now when he creates mankind, according to Chapter 2 of Genesis, we get insight into the details of how God created man and the beginning of God’s relationship with man. What we also get, is the only thing that God said was “not good” in his creation of the world, namely that man was alone. Now typically we think about this declaration of God’s displeasure with Adam being alone to be primarily about the institution of marriage and how the marriage relationship of male and female was God’s idea, and to that I would say “Amen”.
However, the first commission in Chapter 1 to be fruitful and multiply implies something about God’s plan for humans that goes beyond the first marriage and envisions a multitude of people. These people were to bear the image of God and fill the earth so that from the world’s inception, God thought that for one individual to be a lone representative of Him on earth was not a good thing. As we all know, mankind failed to fulfill God’s original intention as early as Chapter 3 by sinning against God and becoming self-interested, and since then the world has been filled with people but God’s image was now distorted. With sin becoming an integral part of the human experience, people have consistently rejected God’s desire for humanity to exist in harmony with one another and instead embraced discord, selfishness, and isolation from others.
In a day where social media dominates the way people consume news, share literature, and public opinions there is a trend for people to acquire and cultivate social media platforms to represent who they are and what they believe to the world. In the age of the “selfie” it’s commonplace to get a flood of messages online that show the prioritization of me, myself, and I. Now an entirely different blog series could be written about the implications of this phenomena, but what I want to focus on here is how this has affected the way Christians represent themselves and how we are beginning to view our witness to Christ in isolation, which is not a good thing.
If you follow the storyline of the Bible, one can see that God has always created a people for himself. Scriptures like Deuteronomy 7:6 make it clear that a central part of God’s plan for the world was to call out a people to be devoted to him and represent him to the rest of the world. Therefore, the individualism that we often celebrate and even idolize comes into conflict with how God primarily intends for His us to identify ourselves as a part of a collective, namely the Church.This truth comes to fruition in the New Testament with the coming of Christ and the establishment of churches throughout the book of Acts. The Christian should understand through the New Testament that we were not just saved out of darkness as individuals but according to books like 1 John, walking in the light is directly connected to our fellowship with other believers.
God saved us into a people and for His glory. The ethics and ways of our culture don’t dictate the actions and ethics of the kingdom of God, but often the Church is taking its cues from the world to emphasize the Christian individual more than the Church and local churches that we represent. The emphasis has shifted away from what we believe as Christians and the ministry of the local church and become focused on what I stand for and my ministry platform.There is a growing cynicism about the American church and its failures and it seems that to compensate for the Church, many Christians are placing themselves as representatives of the best of the Christian faith. Sadly at times, it even appears like certain Christian leader’s greatest opponents aren’t sin, Satan, or false religions but other Christians.This is out of step with the unity Christ prayed for us in John 17 and the “body” dynamics Paul talked about in 1 Corinthians 12.
The Gospel makes US reconciled to God and to ONE ANOTHER in such a way that what you do as an individual Christian not only makes much or little of God but also affects the narrative of who the Church is to an unbelieving world. The responsibility to be salt and light to the world and our neighborhoods was never meant to be carried along by the strength of any individual. When we reject this and settle for our names and ministries being celebrated while diminishing the importance of our collective witness along with other Bible believing followers of Christ, we undercut the power of our individual witness. We as individuals have to view ourselves as members of God’s entire body and care about what the world sees and believes about OUR collective witness. Regardless of where our citizenship may be on earth we cannot blindly adopt its values as our own as they contradict values of our King in heaven.
Courtlandt Perkins is a Masters of Divinity student at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, with an emphasis on Preaching and Pastoral Ministry. Courtlandt and his wife live in North Carolina where he also serves with Kingdom Diversity at Southeastern. He is passionate about making disciples and has aspirations to pastor full time in the future.