Simply put, Jesus did not die to rescue isolated individuals; he died to create the church. Thus, any approach to the Great Commission that leaves out the absolute necessity of church planting among unreached peoples minimizes the glory for which Christ died.
3. Individualism Fundamentally Redefines Discipleship
In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul applies Jesus’ command regarding the need for “teaching [new believers] to observe everything I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:20 CSB). Paul explains that this task is the responsibility of the whole church and that only by working together will the church see the growth and maturity of its members (Eph. 4:12–16).
This corporate responsibility does not eviscerate the unique contributions of individuals, of course (Eph. 4:7–11). Rather, it emphasizes the primary purpose for the expression of gifts. As Paul says elsewhere, “A manifestation of the Spirit is given to each person for the common good” (1 Cor. 12:7 CSB, emphasis added). This communal focus also makes sense of the many “one another” commands in the New Testament. Indeed, these commands are all but impossible to fulfill apart from regular interaction in the communal life of the church (Gal. 6:10).
All this is by design, of course, for discipleship is not merely a matter of growing in knowledge about Christ. Rather, discipleship is growing in likeness to Christ (Rom. 8:29), and such growth entails an others-centeredness hostile to individualism. Indeed, any approach to discipleship that does not stress the need to share life with God’s people fails to understand the most basic aspect of the law of Christ (Gal. 5:14; 6:2).
I Once Was Blind…
It’s hard to root out all the ways the individualism of the West has clouded our understanding of Scripture. Yet it’s imperative that we try, for cultural blindness is harmful to the church’s witness in the world. At the very least, it increases the risk of cultural imperialism. But in this particular case, it increases the risk that we export individualism along with the gospel, like a deadly package deal, inadvertently training new believers to think in sub-biblical ways about their identity and mission as followers of Jesus Christ.
This article originally appeared here.