Lone Ranger Christian

The epithet “Lone Ranger Christian” is often tossed from the pulpit in an attempt to stigmatize any believer in Jesus who does not honor church.  Church is a social phenomenon so it’s natural for such a point to be well received by this audience.  They’re there – they want others there with them.  Rare is the church that doesn’t want to grow.  The more the merrier, and all that.

Consequently, the pastor’s argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is relatively weak and doesn’t consist of much more than the epithet.  Oh, he’ll throw in some lines about how we all need each other, but neglect the fact that most people who don’t come to church have plenty of relationships and aren’t recluses.  He’ll also throw in some Scripture, but not too much since the New Testament lacks any commandment regarding church attendance.  The closest it comes is Hebrews 10:25 which no church today practices because they all assemble separately when the verse calls for assembling together.  (For more, see my post on Hebrews 10:25.)

Aside from the weakness of the argument against “Lone Ranger Christianity” is the fact that this is exactly the kind of Christianity that was practiced by its Namesake and Founder.  That is, you do not see Jesus submitting Himself and His plans to others.  You do not see Him with a “home church” as base.  He does not have a pastor or elders to whom He submits.  (Well, He did eventually submit to elders but they had Him crucified – in part precisely because He had been a Lone Ranger and had not submitted His teaching to their authority.)  Jesus’ ministry was primarily conducted from town to town and on the roads in between.  Yes, He would go to a synagogue to teach and, yes, He would go to the temple and celebrate Israel’s feasts, but as for what we call church life today – He practiced none of it, taught none of it, and commanded none of it.  Therefore, the Hero of our faith was…the original Lone Ranger Christian.  How then do we follow in His steps without taking on His attitude?

Church is no longer of the Lord, and hasn’t been for a long time.  Seek His kingdom and His righteousness instead.  It is better to be alone and serving the Lord than together with others serving someone else.

See also:  How to Be in the One True Church

18 Replies to “Lone Ranger Christian”

  1. I disagree wholeheartedly.
    After wandering homeless from church to church for a few weeks (and even spending time with a few mormons) I have come to this conclusion- we DESPERATELY need the church. Individualistically and wholistically, there is no circumstance where being apart from a church is a good thing in any way.
    Even if you wanted to “follow Jesus’ example”, you have to see how much time He spent in the synagogues, in the homes of pharisees, talking and debating with the teachers of the law, with His 12 disciples (who were all law-abiding, sabbath honoring Jewish men who went to those synagogues) and various regions and peoples in Judea.
    Basically, if Jesus obeyed the law in full- which the Bible said He did- there is no circumstance allowed in which He could not offer sacrifices, go to the synagogues or submit to authorities of His day.
    Yes, with His teaching and preaching He offered us a “new way” of righteousness that was EVEN MORE radical and instringent, holier than that of the pharisees but in all ways He was humble, obedient, submissive to the church of His day.
    I don’t know what hurts or misgivings or faults you see in the church, or that you see in yourself but I urge you- love others as you love yourself. Love the church- serve the church, honor Christ’s bride (even if she isn’t exactly on her way to heaven right now), see the good and forgive the bad.
    This is the gospel. This is sacrificial love.

  2. nearandforever,

    I nurse no hurt about church…or about anything else, for that matter.

    The bride loves the bridegroom. When she starts talking about how others should love her if they love the bridegroom, she’s stopped loving the bridegroom and gone to loving herself.

  3. I diagree in total. You are not reading the whole Bible.
    What about Jesus going to the synagogue regularly and teaching people. (Luk1 1:15)?
    How do you explain Jesus having 12 and 72 disciples and a group of three that went with Him everywhere except when he was praying?
    What about Jesus’s new commandment that they should love one another (John 13:34)?
    What about the apostles continuing going to the temple after Pentecost. (Acts 3:1)? They stopped going because they were persecuted but then they formed their new faith communities.
    How can you ignore the metaphor of the body and the family of God and the people of God?

  4. What about Jesus going to the synagogue regularly and teaching people. (Luke 1:15)?

    You can go to the synagogue (or church) and teach as Jesus did…but they will probably throw you out as they threw Him out.

    How do you explain Jesus having 12 and 72 disciples and a group of three that went with Him everywhere except when he was praying?

    Yes, we are to be His disciples and He sends us on our way.  He does not send us, however, to segregate ourselves from the world in a separate society but rather to be salt and light in the midst of a darkened world.

    What about Jesus’s new commandment that they should love one another (John 13:34)?

    Indeed, we should.  I write this blog because I love everyone, but I especially love those who love Christ.  I am seeking to encourage them – you included.

    What about the apostles continuing going to the temple after Pentecost. (Acts 3:1)? They stopped going because they were persecuted but then they formed their new faith communities.

    The purpose of those communities was to teach the way of Christ – then the apostles moved on.  Those communities weren’t gathered so that the apostles could create an institution and then rule over it.

    How can you ignore the metaphor of the body and the family of God and the people of God?

    I embrace those metaphors.  The body of Christ are those who are connected to Him, the family of God are those who have been birthed by Him, the people of God are those in whose midst He walks.  As it is written, “The Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19).  No human being can head the body of Christ.  No human being can sire the children of God.  And no human being can lead the people of God.

  5. Calling all “Lone Ranger Christians”:

    If you ever feel like you’re lost, if your hope and no half of you is left, our Lord Jesus Christ, then, He’s the One who will always be there by your side through thick and thin. His touch will be unlike any way you’ve been touched before so that time stands still. This is true. Promise!
    😉

  6. Hi Mike ~
    I’ve had my sit-down talks with the Boss; you and I have touched bases a few time back down ‘the road a piece’, and I do understand you (in a good way).

    I as you, have been ‘a recovering minister’ (ya, several years under my belt, like you); I as you, acknowledge, welcome, and enjoy ‘Lone Ranger Believers’ because I am one too.

    Here’s the deal; I’ve spent some years attempting ‘doctrine correction surgeries’, performing ‘atta-boys’ of encouragement for those who have left ‘marketplace religion’ (for the right reason) and defending being a ‘Lone Ranger’. (honest Indian) believer.
    The getting out of ‘church’ is easy; you just do it . Getting the’church’ out of you isn’t quite as easy. It has taken me a lot of time; years to be truthful (it’s more like a necessary process that is inescapable, to pull up all the thorns, thistles, and weeds.) because a quick shot of ‘Round-up’ weed killer just doesn’t work well ~ it kills the good stuff while it’s weed whacking.

    In that process I have found 2 things I’d like to share with you. I am not trying to be your teacher (because like you, I am no man’s teacher) Ponder them before the Holy Spirit and see if it turns up the ‘candle-light’ a bit.

    First; I spend lots of time in my room (my secret hiding place) with the door closed; I have found over the process of time, that I am able to distinguish (with ease) that I (we) have two different places that our inner thoughts resonate from. The first being our mind, and quietly observing, you can really tell it is coming from our brain’s reasoning center. The second; a totally different location, much further down; My heart, my bowels (my; our gut-level), where the Spirit seems to dwell. . . and they don’t usually illustrate the same picture. The deeper voice seems to always produce that ‘Peace that passes all understanding, when listened to; while the head-shot seems to only give a, ‘ya, that the better perceived solution, how can anyone not perceive it attitude’.

    Second; I search for the weightier measures; the Spirit of the by-law or law, as opposed to the Letter of the law or by-law.

    It really seems to me that the real point when Jesus rebuked (scolded) the pharisees, was ‘He’ only used the Letter of the law that ‘He’ knew they stood for, as the spoken target to secretly bring to light; that the weightier measure of the law that was/is always designed to be truthfully, (in God’s holy way) – the innocent, and only approved answer.

    Again; I am not even thinking of pointing a finger at anyone; but instead, just sharing something that has been a step closer to ‘wisdom’ for me; rather than ‘reflexing’ on ‘Wow’, this should be perceived as a well though out and considerate answer, to those I am speaking to.

    And trust, that I do know the errors I have stumbled thru in my walk with ‘Him’ ~ He is always gracious, and serious with me about them.

    Mike, as always, You ~

    Have a great day
    Randy

    1. Hi again Mike,

      Maybe try this? God’s plan for Adam and his seed was for the purpose of creating a new kind of being; A being of ‘innocence’ to only and continually commune with ‘Him’ forever; using only the ‘Spirit of the Law’, always’ in doing so.

      That ‘bad guy’ tree in the Garden of Eden, was a ‘trap’, a ‘slick trick’ ; by an enemy: that the enemy knew ‘his tree’ would cause man to fall into the ‘realm’ of beginning to use the ‘Letter of the Law’ to commune with God instead; and spoil man-kinds ‘innocence’ before the eyes of God. The enemy; also knowing that the ‘Letter of the Law’ stuff was always full of ‘leaven’ to keep itself growing.

      Idiom . . ‘a loan shark says, I have loaned you 1000 dollars, pay it back by Friday or it will cost you a pound of flesh’.

      Parables . . . it seem to me that the ‘weightier’ way to successfully and truly give answer to a parable is to do so by using ‘The Spirit of the Law’. I tend to think that Jesus spoke in parables (idioms) to put pressure on us (beneath the surface) for us to begin to learn how to both understand and answer all things in the ‘Spirit of the Law’. I tend to perceive ‘Life’ is intended to be totally lived in the ‘Spirit of the Law’. I also tend to think that it is the presence of ‘wisdom’ beginning to sprout His wings within us.

      It seems to me that ‘Lone Ranger’ understanding has a ‘greater’ opportunity to grasp this than ‘religion’ is capable of processing. (religion is such a battered, shopworn term it has become easier for me to think of it rather as; ‘organized non-profit assemblage’, instead.)

      Not that we are to ignore ‘fellowship’ (we are having it right now)

      Thanks for listening,
      have a great day,
      Randy

  7. Randy,

    The transition from “letter of the law” to “spirit of the law” is the transition from flesh to spirit that Jesus came to bring.

    Step one was the Old Testament. Step two was the New Testament. Step three is that to which the New Testament pointed: the kingdom of God. The New Testament thus was a transitional state – the intermediate state between the old creation and the new.

    Relative to the time period that came before it, the New Testament was very short. And relative to the time period that followed it, the New Testament is infinitely short.

    Jesus’ resurrection from the dead is the fulcrum upon which the transition from flesh to spirit turns.

    The transition from flesh to spirit is arduous. Most people cannot make it, as they are entirely too wedded to the flesh (“narrow is the gate and few are those who find it”). Of course, death ultimately solves this dilemma because it strips the flesh from us. Thus did Jesus turn the curse of death into a blessing, allowing Paul to say, “to die is gain” – an utter absurdity to the worldly mind.

    The Lord will be pleased, however, if we achieve the transition before we die. It is not easy. Over and over in the New Testament, Jesus leads His disciples to take the spiritual rather than the material view. And, over and over, they were obtuse to His leadings. (Had we been in their shoes, we would have been even more obtuse.) Yet they did ultimately achieve the state of mind to which He was drawing them. One of the ways that this is most dramatically indicated is by the book of Revelation (the “spiritually meatiest” book in the New Testament) coming to us through one of the men to whom Jesus had once said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of.” A son of thunder became a son of lightning.

    As the apostles were finally able to break free of the gravitational pull of their own fleshly orientation, so we, too, must keep listening to the word of Lord until we, too, are released from the grip of flesh on our minds.

  8. Hi Mike;
    You’ve been chewing !

    Your ending summation says: As the apostles were finally able to break free of the gravitational pull of their own fleshly orientation, so we, too, ‘must keep listening’ to the word of Lord until we, too, are released from the grip of flesh on our minds.

    I do smell the innocent savor in your answer. It’s so similar to a ‘wise” man taking the time to ‘roast’ what he took in his hunting.

    Your point ~ ‘taking the time to continually listen to Him’ . . . Bingo!
    Thanks for your reply

    Have that great day
    Randy

  9. Mike,
    You couldn’t be more wrong. Acts 2:42-47 shows the new church being born in community and from that point on the New Testament teaches how we practice our faith in the context of the community of believers. 1 Cor. 12:1-37 emphasizes that our individual gifts are necessary to and to be exercised in the body and that we need the giftedness of other believers. The individual Christian, Paul says, can’t say to another, “I don’t need you.” We need one another! Christ intended us to be a body of believers – Peter emphasized that we are each living stones built into a holy temple, a holy priesthood of people. The writer of Hebrews in chapter 10 emphasizes that we persevere in community and are called to encourage one another.

    In short, Christianity is about relationship and that relationship community is called church. We need the body of Christ, a community of believers, in which we can give our strength and where we can receive strength and encouragement from others. Sure, Jesus didn’t need a community. He was the sinless Son of God. However, you and I don’t have that advantage. No, we shouldn’t remain in an unhealthy body or where the teaching and preaching is not based on Scripture. But we absolutely need the community of faith and it needs us. Christianity is a group sport and we should not attempt to be “lone ranger Christians.”

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