I’ve already written on why Submission Is Good. Surprise! I also think dependence is a good thing.
In the Body of Christ, we are absolutely made for dependence. We are simply not designed to be independent. Dependence vs. the entitlement of self-determination. Can I put self-determination in real words?
You’re not the boss of me. You can’t tell me what to do.
I’m over 18; nobody tells me what to do.
Get off my back.
It’s my body. It’s my life. It’s my business.
I need to find myself.
I want to make a difference.
I’m just not being fed at this church anymore.
As long as I have Jesus and my Bible, I’m good.
We’re looking for a church which has a better youth group/ music which I can worship to/ is more welcoming/ has a better Sunday School/ where I like the pastor/ where I feel comfortable…
…which isn’t full of hypocrites.
I’m leaving this church because I can’t exercise my gifts here. I’m a second-class citizen.
Let me share something in my history. We started homeschooling not long after it became legal in our state, about 25 years ago. During some of those early years, we were immersed in a subculture which defined itself by its home orientation.
There was a strong pull toward the idea of home-centered everything: home education, home church, home birth, home business. Most of this is healthy and creative, though some people took it to more extreme places, raising families on remote farms and eschewing worldly things like store-bought soap and TV. After all, the family home was designed to be the hothouse for growing little people.
Endlessly discussed and promoted on email loops was the thought that we ought to be amongst like-minded others. We were encouraged to find a like-minded church, meaning a church where everybody else homeschooled, home birthed, home businessed, etc. Where everyone was on the same page.
Right there in the supposed pot o’ gold of independent thinking, I found the same old groupthink. Commenters were forever looking down on those who wandered unenlightened into their like-minded circle. I loved the home-centered life but I could see that, for some, the community had become a fortress.
At this same time, we found a church home where there was only one other homeschooling family, where an overwhelming majority of families had two children, and where most of the women were professionals with substantial careers. Yet there was no question that this was the place for us.
And a surprising thing happened. God was able to speak to me through these people. I learned that like-mindedness isn’t superficial.
We share the one and only thing that matters: Jesus Christ. We are each a member of his Body. Our fellowship is in Him. We already share a foundation of like-mindedness:
Therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others. In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! (Philippians 2)
When God uses the instrument of someone who doesn’t look like me to teach me something He wants me to understand, I am not in a position to invalidate his message. Without the insights of other people God has put in my life, I would be much, much poorer. Some of these insights were natural, drawn from a well of good sense born of experience which cost something; some were given to me straight from God through people who were willing, though sometimes unwitting, conduits.
In God’s gentle irony, I who spent most of my adult life avoiding women’s ministry, am now helping to lead a women’s ministry. I didn’t get the joke the first time: I swore my kids would never participate in youth group, and two years later I was among a group of parent-leaders.
In the process of helping to create a new ministry, I have learned a great deal about being part of a community. I am dependent on other imperfect human beings whose flaws I can plainly see, and I must trust that I can be lead by their wisdom. If I’m honest, the only flaws I can’t see are mine.
In what my earlier email friends would call a like-minded church, where you feel comfortable, where most everyone is cool like you and is on the same page of the same book from the same library…you are unlikely to be stretched. You are unlikely to hear anything challenging, critical, instructive or helpful. You are likely to have your beliefs and opinions massaged but not questioned. You are unlikely to grow.
You are unlikely to place yourself under authority. You are unlikely to be humbled by becoming obedient, as even Christ was.
We are meant to see our lives in the context of others who share our lives. And God will place us among a diversity which matters: not the superficial diversity we tend to look for, but differences which include just what we need.
When I consider only myself, as our culture expects, I dismiss the complements, the diversity, the wisdom that God knows I need which comes from foreign views to mine. If I dismiss the wisdom from people who I don’t feel I relate to, I dismiss what Almighty God is trying to tell me. Yep, that person you thought was kinda boring and who (in your opinion) doesn’t have a clue fashion-wise and listens to lame music…did she just say something absolutely brilliant which was precisely what you needed to hear? I think God has a good-natured laugh when our pride gets whacked upside the head.
God places us in this family community, and asks us to submit to dependence on others, so that we learn how to live among others with integrity. That’s easy when we’re babies but gets harder as we grow. By the time we reach some culturally arbitrary measure of adulthood, we are convinced that we don’t need no help from nobody.
We starve ourselves by cutting off the sources of wisdom he has prepared for us, by substituting internet fellowship for face-to-face, life-to-life, iron-to-iron human fellowship. We aren’t accountable to grow and change by anyone we meet by pixel. We become arrogant. It’s the Christian’s version know-it–all-ism.
God wants us in accountable relationships, all of us; honoring authority and submitting to teaching, exhortation and correction. He wants us supported by our real spiritual siblings, and he wants us to support in turn. How will we bear one another’s burdens if we never make it to church? How will we lay down our lives for one another if we’re off on our own island? How will we share our lives with people we only occasionally visit? God calls us to be part of community. We are never expected to be lone wolves or individuals.
God makes us part of the true Church universal, the Body of Christ, the second we choose relationship with him. That’s the big picture. But he also calls us to commit to a specific, local group of real people in continuous relationship. It’s almost impossible to live out the commands for growing within His Body without committing to that church experience.
Study all the one anothers in the New Testament. The picture you discover is one of an intimate, inter-dependent, loving family of (true) like-minded, fallible, needy people. The gates of hell will never prevail against this.
In the church, we are made for dependence.