Can I walk alone with God? It is important to recognize just what is meant by this question. At its heart is the concept of walking with God. To be in an active and growing relationship with God. Can I have that relationship with God apart from being a part of a community of believers? In other words, is it possible to be a Lone Ranger type of Christian?
Why Would this Question Even Come Up?
There are a couple of reasons why someone might ask this question. The first is because they are living in isolation from other believers. There are places in the world that are hostile to faith in Christ. Or that faith in not practiced. And in those cases, the one who comes to faith will find themselves unable to join with other believers. Will they be unable to effectively walk with God?
The other reason is likely more common. A person has had a bad experience with a local church, and maybe several of them. And, as a result, they have withdrawn from what they call the organized church. They have not rejected faith in God, and still want to walk with him. But they are no longer interested in being a part of a community of believers. Will they be unable to effectively walk with God?
The Community of Believers
It is worthwhile looking at what is meant here by being a part of a community of believers. I am not referring to simply attending a local church and participating in some of its activities. That is not bad, but it is not enough.
We are called on to be more than a loose collection of individuals who gather weekly. In John 17:20-21 we find Jesus praying for those who would believe because of the message of his apostles; that’s us. And in this prayer, he says “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” His prayer is that we may be united as believers. That we might be one. In similar fashion to the unity enjoyed within the Trinity.
We might identify a number of things Jesus came to do, especially redemption and reconciliation. But among them was the establishment of a new covenant people. Jesus’ prayer, and expectation, for his people is that we be one. And that is not compatible with walking alone. We are to walk together.
What Does the Bible Teach?
One of the most explicit calls in the Scripture to be in community is found in Hebrews 10:24-25. “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” Some, even in the earliest church, seem to have given up meeting with other believers. They had left the community of faith. And the author of Hebrews encourages those who remain to continue meeting together.
Why? To encourage each other. They were living in a time and place where it was challenging to be believers. While together, they could encourage each other to continue faithful.
And, while they are together, they can “spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” This goes beyond simple encouragement to continued faithfulness. This looks at challenging each other to be growing in the faith and in fruitfulness. And it carries with it a note of accountability. That is all lacking when we do not meet together in community.
The Advantage of Community
What are the advantages of being a part of a community of faith? Some have been mentioned above, but below are five advantages of walking with God in community with other believers.
- We can encourage each other. We all need encouragement from time to time. Especially to be encouraged to walk faithfully with God. To be involved in spiritual disciplines. And to lift us up when we have fallen or are in a low place.
- To hold each other accountable. Accountability is not something that we typically value. But it is important. It definitely helps me to be more disciplined when I know that others will be holding me accountable.
- Corporate worship is important. Yes, I can, and do, worship out in the creation. And I find it enriching and valuable. But worshipping together with other believers is also beneficial. Corporate worship, if it is genuine and God focused, is something that I cannot duplicate when by myself. Worshipping with others enhances my own worship experience.
- Sharing together in Bible Study. I study the Bible more by myself than I do with others. But that corporate Bible study is important. The sharing and discussion help me to stay centered. And I find that I actually go deeper in the word when doing it with others. Their questions and comments draw me deeper into the word.
- God has called us to be a part of the body of Christ. And he has uniquely equipped each of us to serve within the body. If I am not a part of a body, and serving appropriately, then I am hurting the body. As well, if I am not a part of a body, then I am missing out on the other gifting God has given that body. I am like an eye that has no body to provide sight for, or to receive support from.
The Disadvantage of Going It Alone
In addition to missing out on the advantages listed above, attempting to ‘go it alone’ in your relationship with God carries with it the following disadvantages.
- We are acting in disobedience to Scriptural instruction to join with other believers. Can I really expect to walk in union with God when I am not in union with the body of Christ?
- What happens when I fall, or when doubt comes my way? Most of us will likely experience doubt in our faith, often more than once. If there is no one around to help, even indirectly, it can be challenging to overcome it.
- You will never reach your true potential as a child of God apart from the body of Christ. We are called to work, grow, and serve together. It is not enough to simply have a personal relationship with God.
Can you follow God apart from a community of believers? It is possible, especially if there are no other believers where you are. And if that is the case God will provide for you in other ways.
But if you are among those who are ‘burnt out’ on church, I would encourage you to not just drop out and go it on your own. The value of being a part of a living and growing body of Christ is beyond measure. And it is essential for being the person God has called you to be. Continue to search for that local body where you can effectively serve and grow.
The views expressed here are solely mine and do not necessarily reflect those of any other person, group, or organization. While I believe they reflect the teachings of the Bible, I am a fallible human and subject to misunderstanding. Please feel free to leave any comments or questions about this post in the comments section below. I am always interested in your feedback.
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This article was first published in Christianity.com on November 11, 2019