Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s classic study of Christian community provides the title for this post. Bonhoeffer makes it clear that true community is not an easy thing.  In fact, it is not a human possibility, for only the Holy Spirit can produce a community that actually functions as the body of Christ. 

One of the principal obstacles to embodying a biblical vision of life together in the American context is the prevailing culture of therapeutic individualism. Most of us see ourselves first as individuals rather than as members of family, church, nation, etc.  We have imbibed deeply at the river of self-care and self-fulfillment.  Indeed, we have difficulty imagining any approach other than “me first” even in the spiritual realm. 

I am struck by this repeatedly when I listen to much of the music we sing in our churches. How often the lyrics abound with first person singulars!  “I” and “me” appear with dreary monotony as we reinforce the idea that Christian faith is basically about me and Jesus.  Why don’t we sing about “we” and “us”?  Sometimes I purposely change the words to plural just to resist the tide of Christian Narcissism. 

In his recent book Jesus Have I Loved, but Paul? Daniel Kirk discusses how this same cultural filter leads to a misunderstanding of the apostle’s teaching regarding spiritual gifts: 

In one of the most profound ironies of my own experience, talk of such gifts has usually been part of a larger vision of self-discovery. We take inventories to see what gifts each one of us has. We sit down with a list of tasks wherein we might find ourselves well employed within our gifting. In the process, what for Paul was an inherent part of life in community is co-opted by our individualistic Christianity as a means to self-fulfillment (p. 67). 

In spite of all the communitarian talk we hear today, Bonhoeffer is right:  true community is not a human possibility. May the Spirit of God awaken his people to be the church!

Dave Dunbar is president of Biblical Seminary.  He has been married to Sharon for 42 years.  They have four grown children and six grand children.


Add comment

Security code

Sign-up Today

Join thousands of students, faculty, and staff who are following Jesus into the world. You will receive notification when a new blog is posted, and be receive help in your place in life.

Follow Biblical

Follow us on the following sites and receive notifications on upcoming events and blog entries:

Follow Biblical on facebookFollow Biblical on Twitterg+_64_black

Latest Blog Entries

Written on 24 November 2015 - by Kyuboem Lee
Written on 19 November 2015 - by Chang Hoon Oh
Written on 12 November 2015 - by David Lamb
Written on 29 October 2015 - by Philip Monroe
Written on 27 October 2015 - by Deborah Foulkes, Ph.D.
Written on 22 October 2015 - by Charles Zimmerman
Written on 06 October 2015 - by Derek Cooper
Written on 17 September 2015 - by Manuel Ortiz and Susan Baker
Written on 01 September 2015 - by R. Todd Mangum
Written on 25 August 2015 - by R. Todd Mangum

Previous Blog Entries

Contact Admissions

800.235.4021 x146

215.368.5000 x146

215.368.4913 (fax)

Stay Connected with Biblical

Follow us on the following sites:

Follow Biblical on facebookFollow Biblical on TwitterFollow Biblical on YouTubeg+_64_black
Or simply call us at...
800.235.4021 x146 or 215.368.5000 x146

Support Biblical by Giving

800.235.4021 x130

215.368.5000 x130

215.368.2301 (fax)