Cowboy Christianity

This entry is part 125 of 140 in the series Holiness Matters

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American ideals reward the person who pulls himself up by his bootstraps. We are used to society based on individuals. We applaud those who don’t rely on anyone else but themselves. But this is a thoroughly unbiblical perspective.

Especially when it comes to the church God wants us to not practice cowboy Christianity, where we rely on ourselves and don’t ask for help. There are individual activities in Christianity, personal steps we must take to grow in God. But there are also things we cannot do alone.

We have been talking about living and our relationships with God and others. Being part of the church fast tracks us to the presence of God. We can be in God’s presence alone but when we join others we are spread on to see God’s presence corporately.

Objections to the Church

Many people have objections to being part of the Church on earth. There are even Christians who have issues with the church. Some people tell me they believe in God and worship him, but they don’t go to church.

The Bible calls us to be together with other believers (Hebrews 10:25). It talks about the assembling of believers and what believers do corporately. There are parts of Scripture a person cannot fulfill on their own. You cannot be a peacemaker if there’s no conflict with another person. Love and forgiveness are Christian values you don’t get from the world.

You may see them in the world, but unconditional love is hard to find. You don’t know if the person will forgive you are not. But these Christian principles are practiced in the body of Christ. Scripture commands Christians to live out the principles and teachings of Jesus.

People who don’t want to be part of the Church say things like, “Nature is my church,” or, “That place is full of hypocrites.” What they refuse to admit is that hypocrites don’t just go to church. You can find them everywhere else. And though God created nature and it is his handiwork it will only teach you so much about him.

I’ll be the first to admit that the Church on earth is not perfect. We have everything from personality clashes to disagreements to power grabs. The Church is full of imperfect people pursuing the perfect Lord.

We don’t always get it right. But we do practice grace, peace, and love. While I understand the objections people have with the Church Jesus instituted it and it has great power when we obey Christ and his Holy Spirit.

Going It Alone

Some people with objections to the Church choose to go it alone They decide for themselves how they will receive instruction from the Word, who will teach them, and how they will remain accountable to Scripture.

But what I found in some cases is these objections are excuses to not attend church or get involved in the local body of Christ. They want to have religion on their terms. But that’s not how the Bible works. It doesn’t tell you that you can take this part and leave that part.

Where is the accountability in being a cowboy Christian? If you watch enough Westerns you’ll realize that even the Cowboys have friends and don’t travel alone all the time. Going it alone goes against Scripture that requires us to gather together.

Accountability is huge when it comes to living the Christian life. We cannot be accountable to ourselves. It’s way too easy to cheat ourselves, deceive ourselves, and even lie to ourselves about our progress in the Christian faith and holiness.

When I mention accountability from the pulpit I lose two seven or three people for about two weeks. They are not interested in being accountable to other people. They don’t want other people to know what they’re doing.

In one sense I can understand the desire for privacy. But are we using privacy and individuality so that our sin is not exposed? As I have said before sin loses its grip on us when we expose it to the light of confession.

If you are the kind of person who actually practices Christianity alone (inasmuch as you can) then I can see your prospective. But I still see in Scripture a gathering of the saints regularly. These objections can be dealt with through love and unity in the Church.

Better Together

With all of the objections and problems people have with the Church, no one can deny that when you join the church locally you find people who care about you. They want to help you along in your faith. And you have the ability to help others with their faith.

We are better together than apart. Being part of Jesus’ body on earth allows us to connect to like-minded believers. People in the world do not have the same objectives, principles, worldview, and desires as you do.

Though there may be disagreements and other clashes from time to time in the church we demonstrate love and forgiveness and make peace with one another. Jesus has placed a system of addressing disagreements and discipline for those who do not adhere to his teachings (Matthew 18:15-20).

There is unity of the Spirit within the body of Christ. We have the same Lord, the same faith, and we worship the same God. Unity is built into the Church. When we do practice Jesus’ teachings well nothing can stop the Church.

You can find a support system within the Church. We encourage one another, share life together, worship God together, serve one another, challenge one another, and teach one another. There is no other place like the Church on earth if you are a believer.

Benefits of the Church

Fellowship is a big benefit for me personally. There’s nothing like connecting with other Christians, sharing life together, and sharing all the parts of worship together. I love to have communion with others, to worship in song and to listen to a Spirit-filled sermon. And yes, the food is great too.

We receive instruction and teaching from the Lord through the preaching and teaching of the Word of God. It’s very hard to find a Bible teacher without a church. And when you look online and on TV you never know what you’re going to get.

We must listen to teaching that comes from the Word of God, from deep study, meditation, and direction from the Holy Spirit. Without these elements the teaching falls flat and doesn’t have any authority. Not all teaching that comes out of churches is profitable. But there is an effort to teach the Word by the power of the Spirit.

Within Christian community we learn to be generous givers to the works of God. We learn how to manage our finances and steward them in ways that please God. We can support one another in ministries and missions.

We serve one another through the gifts of the Spirit. Whether it’s in the service itself or something we do outside of service for one another, we have a community of people whose needs we can fulfill and people who can fulfill our needs.

We can pray together and do spiritual warfare. If you think demons are afraid of one Christian you should see how fast they flee from a group of Christians. Prayer moves the hand of God and the more people who go before his throne in unity, the more we see God’s miracles and rejoice with one another.

These are just a few of the benefits I can think of off the top of my head. There are many more. We must not neglect meeting together (Hebrews 10:25). It is in these communities of faith that we practice the Christian faith to gather, living together and loving together.

Conclusion

We can find problems with the Church if we look hard enough. But we can find problems anywhere if that is our attitude and desire. We are imperfect people who make mistakes. But we live in love together, seeking to serve Jesus as part of his body.

Scripture commands us to meet together and worship together. While there are many things you can do in the Christian faith individually, we are better together as the whole Church universal. Jesus said that he established his church and the gates of Hell cannot prevail (Matthew 16:18).

What are some of the positives and negatives you see in Jesus’ Church? Why do you stay away from Church, or why do you believe strongly as I do that the Church is vital to complete Jesus’ mission on earth?

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