Jeff Stewart blogs at “Different Cloth.”  A former pastor within the traditional church, he is moving to a different paradigm of ministry.  (He operates out of the Java Journey Coffee Shop  in Hickory, NC.)

In his post on May 17, he quoted Frank Viola – from Viola’s latest book “From Eternity to Here” – as a reference to how he saw being “part of a small cluster of followers who share their gifts and have the freedom to lead and teach as God prompts without conventional barriers in the way.”

In the excerpt, Viola says that Christians are taught to from an individualistic perspective.  While we know we must come to faith each one of us – and not rely on the faith of others to get to heaven – we are called to work out our salvation in community. The fullness of Christ comes in the church, the ekklasia.  Spiritual gifts are given to individuals, for the work of the church.

Viola says some of the problem is that we have an unbiblical view of what church is.

“Church” has been redefined as the place you attend to be educated and motivated to go out and live a better individual Christian life. Sadly, the individual emphasis in contemporary Christianity has overwhelmed and eclipsed God’s central purpose, which is corporate. To compound the trouble, we have been handed individualistic lenses by which to read, study, and interpret everything in the Bible.

The problem it seems is that modern American Christians see themselves as either individual members of an organization that meets as church only in a specific building.

Stewart is right that the organizational structure often stifles the message of authentic faith. (see his discussion here)  But the other extreme  -every man/woman/child as a church unto themselves –  is also clearly wrong.  Those that see themselves as Christian without need of the others that meet in a particular spot lose the strengthening of the gifts given to others they should be meeting with.

Which is what church is all about.