Today’s society is no friend of encouragement. If you turn on your television, open a magazine or perhaps even a blog online what you’ll find is news that is less than encouraging. What we need is encouragement. For many people they turn to teachers who only teach comfortable truths so such people never have to deal with their sin or see anything uncomfortable in their lives. This version of popular Christianity is known as the prosperity gospel. The problems with the prosperity gospel are many and I’m not going to get into all of them here, but I do want to focus on one, namely, that teachers of the prosperity gospel emphasize our happiness and rarely ever talk about how life is hard, Christians will experience difficulty, persecution and the like. Does God care about our being happy? I believe He does, but not in the way the prosperity gospel promotes. True happiness is experienced as we see how God good is and how not very good we are. The difference between the prosperity gospel and the biblical Gospel is monumental—one gospel focuses on my happiness whereas the biblical Gospel deals with my sin and points me to the Savior. Ultimately, only the biblical Gospel addresses my need to repent of my idols by turning from them and to the Lord Jesus who alone can wash me of my sin and empower me to be like Jesus. This is the good news of the Gospel but even here we haven’t even begun to go far enough.
[Tweet “Christians have been saved for a purpose and that purpose is to gather together in community.”] All throughout the book of Acts we see Christians gathering together—sometimes in small groups and then in larger groups. We also see church leaders gathering together in Acts to discuss important matters in relation to the Church. In the epistles Christians receive instruction on what the Gospel is and how to implement it into their life and witness for Christ. Yet, many Christians today want to deemphasize the importance of community in favor of a type of Christianity that the Bible never supports, nor teaches. This type of Christianity is known by many people as lone-ranger Christianity.
As I mentioned at the outset of this article, I fell down my stairs several times and hobbled around. When I talk to people who hold to the lone-ranger view of the Christian life- that is the idea that people don’t have to attend church to be Christians—what they always emphasize is how their relationship with God is going great. Almost every single time there is some mention in these discussions about how their religion is private and they don’t need others to help them be accountable. In these discussions I always emphasize the importance of community and what the Bible actually teaches. Paul wrote his letters to churches. Some of Paul’s letters were written in response to questions people had in the churches Paul started.
Perhaps you think that being in community doesn’t matter for you. Perhaps you are like those I’ve talked to and think that Christianity is a private matter between you and God. If that is you, I want to challenge you. Please tell me where you see that in the New Testament. When we read the New Testament we see God saving and calling people to be part of His church and to live their Christian life inside the Church. When we read the New Testament I see God saving people, and using them within the confines of the local church and then sending them out to make much of Himself in their vocations and families for His glory. What I don’t see is the type of Christianity that promotes the lone ranger view. If the truth be told, the lone-ranger view of Christianity actually promotes a wrong view of Christianity that leaves people hobbling spiritually because it promotes the consumerist mentality promoted by our culture.
[Tweet “One of the biggest reasons Christians need to be in community is for encouragement.”] Over fifty times the epistles teach that Christians are to “one another each other”. The reason we need encouragement is we are in a war. Satan the prince of the power of the air wants to discourage God’s people. He wants to rip them out of the hands of the Redeemer—Jesus Christ. Yet, Jesus has promised greater is He who is in you than is in the world. Jesus is not a defeated savior, He is a victorious, triumphant and exalted Lord. Furthermore, Jesus is the Chief Shepherd over His church. Jesus calls His people to community for the explicit purpose of helping them to grow in His grace so they can be encouraged to put off the flesh and put on the Lord Jesus Christ. Lastly, Christians need the accountability of other Christians in the confines of the local church where they can fellowship, pray with one another and much more.
At the end of the day the lone-ranger view of Christianity won’t help you to grow in Christ; in fact it will help you to walk away from Christ. As I’ve seen over and over in discussions, people who hold to the long-ranger view of Christianity cling to their interpretation of the Bible; while the Bible actually teaches against their view. Instead of soaring to growth in God’s grace in community with God’s people—they choose to hobble around. Instead of being encouraged by God’s work in and through the local Church as He uses ordinary people in extraordinary ways—many of them consciously choose to live their lives outside of the Church. It should not surprise us then when we talk to such people that they are often discouraged.
At the end of the day Christians should reach out to those who hold to the lone-ranger view of Christianity. We should reach out to those who attend our churches who don’t view church membership as important to the Christian life. We should exhort our fellow brothers and sisters of the importance of being under authority first under God, and then under God-ordained authority in the local church. By doing so we emphasize the importance of community which at its core helps people to not hobble around but rather be encouraged to grow in likeness to Jesus within the confines of the local Church. As we do this—our churches will grow in likeness to Jesus with the result that healthy disciples of Christ will be made and the gospel will be expanded to the lost.
Dave Jenkins is happily married to Sarah Jenkins. He is a writer, editor, and speaker living in beautiful Southern Oregon. Dave is a lover of Christ, His people, the Church, and sound theology. He serves as the Executive Director of Servants of Grace Ministries, the Executive Editor of Theology for Life Magazine, and is the Host for the Equipping You in Grace Podcast. He is the author of The Word Explored: The Problem of Biblical Illiteracy and What To Do About It (House to House, 2021). You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Parler, Youtube, or read his newsletter. Dave loves to spend time with his wife, going to movies, eating at a nice restaurant, or going out for a round of golf with a good friend. He is also a voracious reader, in particular of Reformed theology, and the Puritans. You will often find him when he’s not busy with ministry reading a pile of the latest books from a wide variety of Christian publishers. Dave received his M.A.R. and M.Div through Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary.