Just Me And Jesus Will Do Fine

Red Dawn Praying

“When we are pursuing being disciples of Jesus Christ, we realize we need the church less.”

I hope my mouth didn’t drop open when he made this statement.The lay leadership team of this healthy church was gathered for their annual retreat. They asked me to guide their experience using the Shift Learning Experience. I was describing the move from member identity to disciple identity. This gentleman seemed to be tracking really well; asking insightful questions and vigorously engaging the learning. But when he made this remark, everyone stopped and stared.

“Tell more about what you are thinking.”That’s the best I could respond, given my shock about his statement. He went on to describe the process of becoming a disciple more fully as a very privatized and individual activity. He talked about a system of spiritual disciplines one would engage on a daily basis (yes, that’s one aspect of it) and how one would go deeper in one’s faith journey.

Afterwards, it was clear to me that this gentleman represents many Christ-followers. Many see the process of being formed more fully as disciples as a very personal, private, and individualistic activity. This is something one does behind closed doors, in one’s private prayer closet, so to speak. Given this view, one needs the programs and services of the church less and less.

Two insights rise to the surface after reflecting on this experience.

First, I’m reminded that the culture of our context (USA) significantly influences our faith. Here in America we value individuality. Here we believe individuals can pull themselves up by their boot straps. Here we promote John Wayne types as heroes. Would John Wayne ever need a community, a team, to accomplish his mission? No, he goes it alone. “Hyper-Individualism” is not too strong a phrase to describe our cultural context, which then influences our faith.

Second, I’m afraid we church leaders have taught, or at least insinuated, that following Jesus is a very individualistic activity. Protestant evangelical churches have (and some still do) emphasized a VERY personal relationship with Jesus. When we stay with this thought, the VERY part becomes formative. Since we understand the heart of our faith to be about a VERY personal relationship with Jesus, then gathering with other disciples for mutual support, growth, and sharing becomes less important. The gentleman in the retreat simply verbalized succinctly what many Christ-followers believe. Just me and Jesus will do fine.

The irony in this is striking. When we actually try living as disciples of Jesus Christ, we find that we need the church (invigorated community gathered around the Risen Christ) so much more than before. As I seek to LIVE as a disciple, I’m completely sure that I cannot live that way by myself. I’ve tried it, and failed. Sure I can maintain systematic devotional life on my own. But implementation – actually living the gospel – that’s another story. Loving people when I have a schedule to keep, giving away things rather than getting more things, forgiving people who really hurt me…I have to have a community of disciples with whom to ride that river. I can’t sustain it on my own. The challenge is too significant.

It turns out that just me and Jesus won’t do. Instead Jesus provided for us a community of faith with whom to share the journey. Thanks be to God.

4 thoughts on “Just Me And Jesus Will Do Fine

  1. gpayton1@sc.rr.com March 26, 2015 / 1:57-04:00Mar

    Mark, well said. Amen. George Payton

    Liked by 1 person

  2. J.Earl March 26, 2015 / 1:57-04:00Mar

    Interesting that Jesus formed his own “community” in the very beginning of his ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. jpatrickvaughn March 26, 2015 / 1:57-04:00Mar

    Awesome essay!



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