Here’s an interesting link to a link to a link regarding the above. Please take a look at it, then come back.
I think one of the weaknesses of our late twentieth century evangelicalism is the emphasis on a “personal relationship” with Jesus. Now hold on before you call me a heretic.
The idea of a “personal” relationship with God was all but unknown to the Israelites of the Old Testament. Sure, Abraham and Moses had a friendship with God, but that was the exception, not the rule. (Bunny trail: how many of today’s Christians say that their relationship with God is like a friendship? Not me. In fact, aren’t we encouraged to set aside the “Jesus is my friend” notion as something that is OK for grade school but not as we get older? Maybe we should be rethinking this. But, back to the point.)
It is clear that one of the primary purposes of Jesus on this earth is to emphasize the fatherhood of God. We are to relate to God the Father as his children. And in the upper room, Jesus made the big pronouncement that he is calling his followers his friends. Both positions (child and friend) imply a personal relationship.
However, in our rush to be personal with God, I think we have all but thrown out the relationship that was already established and well-known to the children of Israel: relating to God as his people. The idea so prevalent in the Old Testament is not something I hear much about. However, it is echoed in the New Testament as well.
When the church relates to Jesus as a body does to the head, it’s not in a personal way. That is, a body’s organs do not relate personally or directly with the head; they simply take direction and follow orders. A soldier in an army (another picture of the church) does not personally know the commanding officer. In both scenarios, each member is incomplete (dare I say useless?) without the other members, and all members function as a unit to accomplish the will of their leader. Their identity is found within a larger group.
So we have this dichotomy. I enter into a relationship with Jesus where He calls me friend, and we have love for each other. I also enter into a relationship with other followers, where we band together to accomplish a greater mission than anything I could accomplish alone.
It seems that many of us think of church as a place where we can learn more about our personal relationships with God, rather than as a place where we have a job to do together. Church hopping, a lack of commitment, and a “what’s in it for me” mentality are the result of the over-emphasis on being a child of God, and not spending enough time on being the people of God.