Once upon a time I met a guy in a Dunkin’ Donuts who claimed to be a Christian but expressed his disillusionment with organized religion and fancied himself a church-less believer. He went into his reasons for not being a part of a church, but the conversation started to fizzle after he asked me what I did for a living and I told him I was a pastor.
I don’t think there should be such a thing as a lone ranger Christian because the Bible uses terminology such as “household of faith”, “the body of Christ”, and “God’s temple” to describe the together-ness of God’s people (Gal. 6:10; Eph. 4;12; 1 Cor. 3:16). Plus, the Bible is full of commandments that can only be obeyed when believers are living in community with one another. The local church is the environment God has chosen for followers of Christ to grow and change, just ask the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians Paul wrote to in the New Testament – all members of local churches in their cities or regions.
There are more reasons, but suffice it to say that God wants us to be part of a local church. But just because you are part of a local church does not mean that you are experiencing the deep benefits of living life with other Christians. You can be a lone ranger Christian sitting in a packed pew every Sunday morning. And let’s face it, we all have this tendency to one degree or another. What do I mean? I mean that we have to do more than just show up at church events. We have to open ourselves up to people and allow them to speak into our lives with God’s truth and wisdom.
But in order for this to happen we can’t just wait for someone to start asking us questions about our relationship with the Lord. It would be great if we all were motivated and disciplined enough to ask each other the hard questions, but the truth is that it doesn’t happen like it should. Therefore, we’ve got to be proactive in helping each other obey commands like Hebrews 3:13, “… exhort one another everyday… that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin”. What does being proactive in this regard look like? It looks like inviting certain people to watch your life carefully, ask penetrating questions about what they see, and offer encouragement and rebuke when necessary. Don’t wait for other people to do their part. Choose a few believers in your church who obviously love Jesus and care about pursuing holiness and invite them to be an instrument of precision in the hands of God for your spiritual growth. We live in a culture of tolerance, so, unfortunately, most of us don’t do this without a little push. So, you provide the push and make sure that the person you are inviting knows you will provide the same kind of care for him/her.