Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to visit a lot of churches, and while I enjoyed the experience (well, I enjoyed most of them), just attending a church service doesn’t cut it for me.
I need community, something I can’t get by just sitting passively in a crowd of other people. I need involvement with other believers.
And you do too.
You may disagree with my assessment, and if so, you’re not alone. In 2019, Lifeway Research found that, among Protestant churchgoers, 65% of them say they can walk with God just fine without the presence of other believers. [Source] So I say to the 65% of you who think you can do just fine without other believers: your perception does not match reality.
Maybe we should begin by defining what it means to say our walk with God is “just fine.” Our personal definitions of “just fine” can be just as varied as our opinions of what makes for a good meal. (Sushi is not in my definition.) But our personal definitions don’t matter; what matters is what God says.
We are only doing fine if we’re living in obedience to Jesus, which means living in obedience to His Word. A lot of people claim to love Jesus, but love is seen in our obedience.
“The one who has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. And the one who loves me will be loved by my Father. I also will love him and will reveal myself to him” (John 14:21).
So … about these commands. Many of the commands in Scripture are written to the church. These are not commands to an individual, but commands we are to carry out together. Consider some of the things we are to do together:
- Strengthen one another (Rom. 14:19)
- Serve one another (Gal. 5:13)
- Carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)
- Be accountable to one another (Eph. 5:21)
- Encourage one another (Col. 3:16)
- Comfort one another (1 Thess. 5:11)
- Help one another (Heb. 3:13)
- Spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24)
- Meet with one another (Heb. 10:25)
- Commit to one another (1 John 3:16)
How can I carry these out—how can I be obedient to Christ in these areas—if I see the Christian life as a solitary activity, something I can just do on my own? If I’m not living in obedience to Christ in my relationship to others, I am not doing “just fine.”
There’s another telling statistic from the same Lifeway research—and it appears contradictory. In the same survey where 65% of the respondents said they can walk with God without other believers, 75% of them also said they need other believers to help them grow in their walk with God.
Wait, what? They don’t need other believers …but they need other believers?! Which is it?
That contradiction speaks of complacency. These Christians would agree that they would do better with other believers speaking into their lives, but they’re content with the ways things are now—they’re complacent—so they’re not going to make any effort to make it better.
That’s sad. When life takes a terrible turn, who are they going to turn to for support? Furthermore, they miss the joy of loving and serving someone else who is going through a rough patch. Complacent Christians can’t support and encourage others if they’ve made the Christian life about themselves.
“Let us consider one another in order to provoke love and good works, not neglecting to gather together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day approaching” (Heb. 10:24-25).
We come to Christ alone—it is an individual decision—but we don’t live the Christian life alone. We are called the body of Christ, and the individual parts of the body need the other parts of the body. Going it alone with Jesus is not an option.
You need the involvement of other believers in your life—and they need you.
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Lynn, I did not take the “I can walk with God without other believers” in the same way. When I read it, my interpretation was that I have no excuse, not even the absence of other believers, for not obey God. It is much easier to walk with and grow in Christ when other believers are there to encourage, challenge, and hold me accountable, but if they are not there (consider missionaries and others who start off alone), I must still walk with God. Anyway, that was my understanding of the statement.
If you read the article I sourced (https://research.lifeway.com/2019/08/05/churchgoers-hold-conflicting-views-on-the-need-for-other-christians/?ecid=PDM255909&bid=702456734), you’ll see a third assessment! “The ‘needing, yet not needing’ responses demonstrate an internal turmoil of individuals desiring community, but not seeing the church as the place to have those needs met.”
I was looking at it the same way as you Jim. I believe we need one another to grow in Christ and to encourage one another and to minister together. But can I be a Christian even if I am not able be in the presence of other Christians, such as those serving as missionaries in a non Christian environment? Yes.
But I will say from comments I have heard over the years, particularly on social media, there does seem to be quite a lot of professing Christians who have chosen not to connect with a local church, often stating they can not find just the right church or they seem to see too much fault in the people in the churches they have attended.
But as for me, I can not imagine trying to go it alone without my brothers and sisters in Christ.
In our part of Texas, we call sushi “bait”. But you know that. 😂