David Fitch is back with part 2 of his critique of the emerging response to evangelicalism. In part 1 he noted the "we're in, you're out" mentality in much of the evangelical church, and the anemic emerging reaction to this black and white theology. Here, Fitch takes on our over emphasis of having a "personal relationship" with Christ while ignoring the social component of the gospel.
A second weakness I see emerging churches responding to is the individualizing tendencies of evangelical ways of being Christ's church. Our churches are organized to meet the spiritual needs of individuals, and our salvation is incredibly individualistic. Calling Jesus "a personal Savior" sounds like Jesus is in the same category as my personal barber, personal trainer, or personal dental hygenist (BTW, I don't have a personal trainer). The danger is making salvation all about me.
I know it didn't start out this way in evangelicalism, but it was latent in the structure of our soteriology. And so we have almost romanticized our relationship with God; created a narcissistic experience of it. And churches become all about preserving, maintaining, and nurturing this experience in their parishioners.
But the gospel is not about getting something, it is about participating in something - God's work of reconciling the whole world to Himself. And yes, we do have a relationship with God which becomes personal but it is inseparable from His mission.
I said in an article I wrote for Allelon:
Imagine what it would be like in our churches, if there were no such division (between personal justification and social justice). If we were not invited to go forward as individuals to receive a packaged salvation from God that gets us off hell, but instead came forward ...