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God’s Global Mission in an Era of the Autonomous Self

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How do we approach mission work in a context of hyper-individuality and globalization?

Many church leaders do cultural studies and wrestle with the sociology of place. On a different track, others try to get their heads around the social imaginaries that make up the personality of our cities (sometimes referred to as a horizon or a space).

We need to help ministry practitioners across North America put these two approaches together so that in examining one’s context as a place, we are also learning to look very closely at the social concepts that are reflected in the urban context. Place is space with historical meanings, different identities, varied societal preoccupations.[1]

As we explore the mission of God in our North American contexts, we recognize that we are in an era of two realities: Hyper-individuality and globalization. These are two unquestionable dimensions of the emerging social imaginary of city dwellers. But you will also notice the term for which Charles Taylor is well known – the autonomous self.

At times, Taylor refers to this as expressive individualism, self-sufficing individualism or in terms of exclusive humanism and the buffered-self.[2] Today, there is a near categorical rejection of any source external to the individual to serve a basis for ethics.

This culture of authenticity[3] is “…the understanding of life….that each of us has [for] realizing our humanity, and that it is important to find and live one’s own way, as against surrendering to conformity with a model imposed on us from outside, by society, or the previous generation, or religious or political authority.”[4]

So how are we to “think” in an era marked by secularity and pervasive hyper-individuality? Or what is often referred to as the privatization of beliefs? In large …

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Source: Christianity Today Magazine

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