With the periodic scandals that make headlines involving clay-footed pastors of dubious moral character, the increasing growth of or awareness of cults exploiting women and children, and some churches getting off base chasing the latest experiential craze, autonomy becomes more and more attractive to many believers.
The dictionary's definition of autonomy is: Able to choose: able to make decisions and act on them as a free and independent moral agent; self sufficient, existing, reacting to or developing as a self-regulating organism.
The problem is that NONE of us were designed to be self-governing and entirely independent. God designed us to be in relationship with others. When we are our own morale compass, it is all too easy to lose direction, and drift into areas that are scripturally unsound. Further, when we preach to our one-chaired congregation of self, we sound oh so eloquent, with no accountability to anyone but "self". Then we are easily led astray.
Have you ever heard the story of the herd of cows that were collectively safe in a fenced pasture? But wise predators learned by observing the cows for a short time that if they could get them separated from one another, the isolated "loner" was vulnerable to attack and defeat. So it is with humankind. When we are in a church body, or a solid Bible study, Men's or Woman's Fellowship, College group, youth group, Sunday school, we are rubbing shoulders with other believers. We are learning and growing together. It is there where some of our dearest friendships are also built, and where some of our possibly "off" ideas and mindsets are tested and exposed, if we give one another the right to be honest. We become accountable to each other.
I remember years ago I attended a conference where the leader used this analogy:
He taught relationships are like square gears on a stone-age clock (yes, he was originally talking about a marriage relationship, but hang in there with me, it will make sense). The gears rubbed against each other causing them to gradually go from square to smooth and round. Then, the gears ran efficiently, smoothly. But, to get to that stage, they had to "rub each other the wrong way" a little see the correlation? God ordains us to be in relationships not only to grow and be fulfilled, but to smooth off some of our rough edges.
So, if you are a lone-ranger Christian, king of your own little kingdom, search the Word for passages on fellowship and accountability, and take the challenge to see afresh how you and your gifts from God fit into the Body of Christ. Ask the Lord to show you the reason for your seclusion, and draw you back into an active group fellowship. Dare to trust others and give them time to know you, likewise affording them the same courtesy.
And pray for those in the Body, who, because of past hurts and disappointments within the church, are standing vulnerable to attacks from the enemy, and who are living lonely lives apart from the thriving Body of Christ. Pray for the Body that we reunite and stand strong and healthy, representing Christ to the world around us.
Laraine Hemrick Horney is a freelance writer in Southern California, former home-schooling mom of one son and one daughter. Her passion is to encourage others in parenting and life.