This past week I went to go see the movie, The Martian, and if you do not know the main premise of the movie, this is what happens: Matt Damon gets left behind on Mars after everybody thought he was dead, and NASA undergoes the greatest search and rescue mission ever attempted. Most of the film, Matt Damon is alone on Mars simply trying to survive. No other humans. Complete loneliness.
And as I watched, I began to put myself in his shoes, and when I did, I immediately started freaking out. I felt this deep sense of emptiness in my stomach. My family and friends came to mind, and how they would be almost 250 million miles away. The thought of living my life in isolation terrified me. But the crazy thing is, we do something similar when it comes to our Christian life.
A current trend in American Christianity is this thought that we do not need the church. The “cool thing” for some is now to have church in a field with just you and God. There was a study performed by Lifeway Ministries and Ligonier Ministries that found these statistics:
Many Americans also don’t mind being disconnected from a local church. About half (52 percent) say worshiping alone or with family is as good as going to church.
Almost all (82 percent) say their local church has no authority to “declare that I am not a Christian.” More than half (56 percent) believe their pastor’s sermons have no authority in their life, while slightly less than half (45 percent) say the Bible was written for each person to interpret as they choose.
The idea is that church can happen on the golf course, in a coffee shop, or while hiking in the mountains. And, yes, we can experience God in these settings. However, these are not true substitutes for actually being a part of a local church.
We need community. We need accountability. We need structure. Simply, we need each other.
We Die on Our Own
We must fight against this trend of isolationism for the sake of our own good. As Christians, the worst thing we can do is try to live out our life apart from other brothers and sisters of Christ. If you read the New Testament, the message is clear that the primary way the Christian can grow is alongside others within the body of believers.
It goes back to the idea in Matthew 18 where Christ shares the story of the shepherd leaving the 99 sheep to pursue the 1 lost sheep. When he finds him, he brings him back to the others because he knew that on his own he would be overtaken by the wolves. But within the flock, he would be protected and would prosper.
Each of us have a desire to know and be known by others, and this is because God designed it that way, for our good. We crave for community. When we enter into biblical community, it pushes us away from ourselves and pushes us toward Christ. If we ever come to believe we can look like Christ on our own, we have bought into a lie that Satan is trying to sell us.
The truth is that we are often our own worst enemy. We need others to protect us from ourselves. We need others to encourage us. We need others to call out our sin. We need others to cry with us. We need others to celebrate with us. Paul sums this all up perfectly in 1 Thessalonians 5:14 when he encourages the church by saying, “We urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
These things don’t happen when we don’t belong to a church. Rather, we get overtaken by wolves. When we start thinking of ourselves too highly, we forget that we are sheep that need a Shepherd. And the greatest thing the Shepherd can do for His sheep is keep them together in a flock for their own good.