If you were born in America, you may not even realize the influence of the Western mindset (Europe/America). Our core value is fierce independence. It’s deeply ingrained in our minds. We are an individualistic culture, and in simplistic terms it says:
- “I’ll keep my distance and you keep yours.”
- “My loyalty lies with me first, my immediate family and children.”
The rest of the world has a relational, community mindset.
- “My loyalty lies with my group first, with my extended families; brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, and cousins.”
- They routinely call friends their sisters, brothers, and cousins who have no blood relation at all.
At an African funeral you might ask, “How are you related to the deceased?” And receive the reply, “He is my brother.” You might think, Oh, I didn’t know the family was so large! But the truth is we are all brothers.
This is one of the challenges of being in a diverse, multinational church family. When someone dies the America (Western) mindset says we initially want our space. Give us time to grieve, and we’ll invite you in when we’re ready to receive.
Relational communities say, come now. Stay all day. Bring food. Let’s take the next week to mourn. It’s a different mindset altogether.
The Western mindset affects the American church and how we connect to it. Almost every study over the past 20 years shows a pattern of drifting away from the local church, and this extends across all denominational lines. American Christians are no longer feeling the need to connect with the church community. They are attending less often, giving less tithes, serving less and, in general, are less connected to the Body of Christ.
Why is that? Long-term connections to any institution runs contrary to our culture of independence and our constant desire for new things. We chafe at the idea of openness, accountability, steadfastness. In short, we are relationally challenged!
Individuality, in and of itself, is not a bad thing. We actually need a mind of our own to grow into an emotionally healthy, separate person. And at the same time, we also have a need to mingle, to be close, to exchange warmth, and to engage in the lives of others.
Healthy spirituality demands we learn to balance these two needs and guard against either one overriding the other.
Listen to the full message here.