A new study shows that while Christians understand the need for other believers to help them in their walk with God, they also have a streak of independence when it comes to their Christian walk.
In a January 2019 survey of 2,500 Protestant churchgoers in the U.S., 75 percent said they see the need for other believers to help them grow in their walk with God. However, when asked if they can walk with God without other believers, 65 percent believed they could do it solo.
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, is convinced the 65 percent viewed going solo as a positive thing.
"Many churchgoers thought [going it alone] 'would show my independence, show that I can stand on my own two feet' – which in many respects … are values we have in other areas of our lives," he shares. "But when it comes to walking with Christ, that's not how he designed us – and he really wants us to do it in community; he wants us to do it in unity with other believers."
LifeWay Research spoke with Kenneth Priest of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, who sees the contradiction exposed by the survey primarily as an issue of discipleship. He cites "the lack of pastors and spiritual leaders equipped to effectively preach and teach a text-driven application of God's Word" as a factor in what he describes as "spiritual apathy" in the pews.
"Solo Christianity is an inward desire to seek after spiritual matters without the realization biblical community is what will fulfill the desire they are seeking," Priest said.
Likewise, McConnell says the results in the study reveal an individualistic philosophy that's prevalent in the U.S.
"That kind of reflects the American ideal there of independence and kind of being the 'Lone Ranger' and still being successful and overcoming things on our own," he says. "But the Word of God is clear that our walk with Christ is supposed to be something that we do in community with other believers."
"Americans don't like to admit they can't do things themselves – [and] that is true of Christians as well," McConnell concludes. "One's walk with God should include dependence on God and mutual dependence among believers."