In this great book on the fellowship or communion of the saints, Philip Ryken explains one major hindrance to solid fellowship.
“Another obstacle to the communion of the saints is the pride of individualism. This is especially a problem in the American church. When the French statesman Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-59) visited the United States in the 1830s he observed that Americans ‘owe nothing to any man, they expect nothing from any man, they acquire the habit of always considering themselves as standing alone, and they are apt to imagine that their whole destiny is in their hands… [This attitude] throws [the American] back forever upon himself alone, and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart.'”
“The pride of individualism has infected the American church. Thomas Jefferson liked to observe, ‘I am a sect myself.’ Thomas Paine said, ‘My mind is my church.’ Now many Americans are raising Paine in the contemporary church. They doubt the necessity of active involvement in a living church. They rely on Christian radio, worship at home with a televangelist, or treat churches like leased automobiles, trading the old one in for a new one every five years” (p. 11).
Ryken is right. Hard core individualism is a huge barrier to true Christian fellowship. And this is one major reason why Ryken wrote and edited this book, The Communion of Saints. Here’s how he said it himself on page 13: “The purpose of this book is to help us rediscover the lost communion of the saints.” I do believe the book is a great help towards that end. There’s even a study guide at the end which makes this a perfect resource for a Bible study or book group. These are the kind of “churchly” books we need to be reading and studying! You won’t find any trendy jargon like “enacted community,” or “Jesus the partier,” but you will find a solid, biblical, and practical discussion of what the church is, says, and does in her pilgrimage.
Here’s the info: Philip Ryken (ed.) The Communion of the Saints (Philipsburg: P&R, 2001).