Jesus encouraged us to unshoulder our burdens and share them with Him (cf. Matthew 11:28); the Apostle Paul tells us to share our burdens with each other (cf. Galatians 6:2). Moreover, we are to use our resources to care for our Christian brothers and sisters. Still, we maintain a ‘great divide’ between laity and clergy and each other relationally – indeed a gap too wide to facilitate the transfer of our burdens to others or Christ. So they collect and weigh us down until we become the picture of spiritual unhealthiness and a questionable witness. Meanwhile, individualism prohibits deep interpersonal relationships necessary for accountability or the discovery of needs. How do we narrow the gap and once again participate instead of dictating or isolating? Through real community, not as a collective of individuals.
Our current one-to-many church model whereby a minister talks to a congregation and then sends them away has created a division between clergy and laity and defies the biblical structure meant for the assembly of Christ followers. There, everyone is equal, and they operate in parallel to use resources and spiritual gifts to equip the Saints for God’s ministry of reconciliation. Our contemporary Christianity, however, saddles clergy as paid religious professionals with laity responsibility for spiritual development and business tasks. As a result, growth is stunted, spiritual lethargy abounds, and opportunities for sharing God-given gifts and talents are nearly non-existent. Moreover, the congregation itself exists not as one body but a collection of individuals sharing the inbound religious experience.
Scott Boren, the author of The Relational Way, points out that the United States has been dubbed by many sociologists as the most individualized society in human history (12). Because our churches comprise complex, diverse humanity that doesn’t, for the most part, become transformed into the likeness of Christ, we too model individualism. We share little including struggles and needs or the Gospel for that matter. Why? Individualism and relationalism are antithetical; the former (us) creates a firewall that restricts relationships and, therefore, the trust necessary for sharing. Let’s have a bit of fun and look at something that looks more like we should: The Borg.
If you are a long-time Star Trek fan, you will likely know of the Borg – that single entity comprising many individuals functioning as that single consciousness; they exist to participate relationally for the betterment of the ‘one.’ Here are some helpful snippets from the Star Trek database (http://www.startrek.com/database_article/borg):
The Borg have a singular goal … This collective consciousness is experienced by the Borg as “thousands” of voices — they are collectively aware, but not aware of themselves as separate individuals. … Among the many advantages their collective consciousness affords them, the Borg hive-mind allows for instantaneous adaptations … with the power of their collective thoughts alone. … The hive-mind drones do not register as individual life-signs when scanned, only as a mass reading …
OK, so the Borg is fictional, and the Church is not. However, we could learn a serious lesson from the Borg concept: Participate to serve, not experience; Grow to help, not for self-gain.
In summary, God has equipped each of us to partner with others in His ministry of Reconciliation. Rather than congregate as self-centered individuals with a common desire to experience religion, let’s become more relational to build trust to enable training and service. Then, we can truly resemble the Borg … well, without all the tubes and stuff!