Humans have always been self-centred. You just have to read the book of Genesis to be reminded of the fact that self centeredness is not just a modern phenomenon. However many of us sense that we have reached a new level of obsession when it comes to ourselves.
Why is this so? One of the main reasons is that the natural rhythms of life contained mechanisms that forced us to take the spotlight off of our selves and to focus on others. Such mechanisms could be work, responsibility, periods of suffering, marriage, or children. However today we have begun to flee from these mechanisms. Cultural Commentator Anne Manne describes how as a culture we have begun to fear the de-selfing mechanisms of child rearing.
“We prolong adolescence, a time of self-centredness, well into middle age. We are skittish about children, a project that, to be done well, requires investments of time and energy not in the self, but in another human being. We delay their arrival indefinitely, or look around when the do arrive for someone else to take responsibility for rearing them.”
So in a culture that runs from that which makes us less narcissistic, the church faces some interesting and weighty challenges. For one of the greater purposes of the Church is to make us more Christlike and thus less self focused. Therefore just as our culture fears and keeps at a distance anything which make take the focus of ourselves, often the church will also be kept at a distance, particularly elements of church life such as commitment, community life, and the spiritual disciplines.
This is where ministers, pastors and church leaders face an ethical challenge, do we keep the elements of church which works against our selfishness or for the sake of perceived success soften them? Does the church remain as a mechanism which helps us to de-self and become more Christ like, or do we change the church into something which expands the individual, giving self-help with a christian veneer?