The world is made up of tribes and people groups. All my life I’ve been fascinated by this and like many children, as a little girl, I spent hours pouring over encyclopedias and National Geographic magazines trying peer into the ‘worlds’ that others call home. Some of my earliest memories from Kindergarten were staring into children’s faces in magazines, which was like peering through a window into all the different tribes that existed in the earth. I love to celebrate other cultures; I adore ethnic food and culture. My father was posted overseas in the early 70s, so I was very blessed to do a lot of travel from a young age. As an adult, I’ve had the privilege of visiting many nations and sometimes I even get the extreme privilege of ministering to folks in other nations.
It doesn’t take a lot of looking to see, that whoever we are, belonging, and a having a sense of family is paramount to our happiness. In fact, scientists have now proven that human connection is the core need for basic human development and maturity. We all knew it, but our emotional health can now be related back to family of origin issues. This developmental process is heightened or weakened according to our connections to a tribe or to a family. That’s why childhood bonding is a vital step for developing a healthy young child. No matter who you are on the planet, family is the longing of our souls!
In the Kingdom, that family is now also the community of God, where no matter what happened to you, you can be healed by love and acceptance.
Villages to Cities- the Death of Collectivism
In looking forward, we need to look back and understand that the change from an agrarian culture to an industrialized one was of massive historical significance. With that change came movement. As we moved from village life, to city life, societies changed in their emphasis, away from family culture. This has brought huge changes over the earth and change to our societies. With these changes came all kinds of cultural adaptations, that have been taking their toll in the last fifty years or so.
We are now asking the questions we should have been asking previously. Where are our communities?
We are still catching up to the fact, that the world is changing so fast, that we can no longer keep up with the cultural, scientific, computerized, educated world, in which we find ourselves. We’ve seen hurtling change in the last twenty years! It’s important to ask the questions: “What are we holding on to? What have we left behind?”
“The soul of India lives in its villages,” declared Gandhi, at the beginning of the 20th century. In ancient times families gathered in groups called villages. Tribes were small villages that consisted of leaders, elders, wise men or spiritual fathers and each village or tribe had its own doctor or physician. The tribe was a small eco-village able to sustain itself and able to provide and trade with other tribes for resources that were unavailable to them. Tribes were self-governing and self-sustaining. They trained and prepared young warriors for battle, and built systems for agricultural fruitfulness and the protecting of family and tribe values. The cultural values of a tribe or village were what held a group of families together, and within that cultural context you ‘designed’ your life to think within that paradigm.
Collectivism puts the goals of the entire group ahead of the desires of each individual that takes part in the collective. In collectivism we see that the family fights for the individual dreams of each person.
Often we had family businesses and family goals that were realized as one. Slowly this has died within our Western societies. With the decrease of collectivism came the rise of individualism. To think individualistically is to say, “I don’t need you”. This is the antithesis of the concept of church, which Paul describes in 1 Corinthians 12. In individualism, the person pursues his or her own goals without regard for the dreams of others.
Now that we live in a digital world, individualism is rife. The promotion of one’s own dreams above another is considered very normal. Situating oneself to advance, or be successful above another is not always wrong but if exalted as the only way we do life, it is idolatry and it is destructive. When I was growing up in the 60s and 70s, it was considered selfish. Granted, I grew up in sheltered, Catholic communities that in the 70s were hugely influenced by the likes of St Francis! The jarring cultures of MTV and its predecessors has sent a harsh cry to this generation that the new ‘normal’ is self.
Western culture has really glorified individualism and placed it high on the altar of cultural preference! Billboards shout at us that we should consider ourselves above all others and that to neglect to do so would indeed be foolish. Yep, the world is self-obsessed and narcissistic. However, things are gonna change!
The cry for community and grassroots movements since the 60s is finally starting to become a “mainstream” voice, that is heralding a new wave, of the voice for community and collectivism.
We are seeing a shift away from self-absorption into an understanding of sharing and the power of love. With the increase of technology and awareness of the world, this generation has become hungry to ‘get out there’ and travel the world more than ever before. The world seems smaller now that the Internet has cosmically broken down the sense of divide. This cultural ‘awakening’ and awareness of the world can also be seen in that there has been cultural change in the church.
We can never go back to the agrarian world of the first few centuries and it’s likely that over the coming decades; the greatest pressures of all are going to come on the Church as we join ‘the conversation.’ We will be tackling the big issues like: the environment, human trafficking, poverty, terrorism, weapons of destruction, multi-corporations, ethics surrounding science and global economic instability.
The Return of Community
My belief is that we are on the brink of major change in the church. This change largely has to do with two features; the return of community and the outpouring of the glory of God on the earth!.
Community is now a popular buzzword. We hear about online communities and food communities. We have health communities, exercise communities, art communities, book-lover communities and indeed a community for pretty much everything!
The other major feature is that the glory of God is starting to pour forth all over the world and we are seeing the awakening of a new revival.
Recognizing that Christ is in us, we can call each other into the mystical fullness of our New Creation being. The church is His community, and it is beautiful. We are rediscovering the power of a shared life, a life absorbed in God, and this life was created for intimacy with God and with one another.
While many in the world are searching for their tribe; God’s answer to the cry of their hearts is to show them a different kind of community. This community is one that is clothed from on high; a community that holds onto love in words and in practice. It is a “micro-village” of heaven, as it is where we find ourselves immersed in His grace and sharing in the oneness of Heaven.
Its time to re-build His community.