Edited Article by | Ben Schenck
If you’re like me, you love a good superhero. Humans, who look like they are chiselled out of stone, perform superhuman feats of strength and speed. These characters are awe-inspiring with their determination, tenacity, and resolve in the face of adversity. We love them because deep within them, they can pull themselves up by sheer will and determination to accomplish a goal single handily. These superheroes that appear as Lone Rangers have been inspiring and fascinating people for years. Unfortunately it’s this same mentality that is killing the church.
For the average church person filling a pew today, the autonomous “Lone Ranger” is what an ideal Christian looks and acts like. It looks like they have everything together, are self-sufficient, and are capable of leaping over any large obstacle that comes their way. Fortunately for us mere mortals trying to fit in the spandex suit, we were never intended to don the superhero cape. You can’t just suck in your gut and call yourself a superhero. If we are going to be everything God has called us to be we have to change something. The number of seats that are filled will not be the lasting legacy of the church but rather the number of lives matured and sanctified through the work of the Spirit. This work takes place through the community of the church, not the self-sufficient autonomy of the individual.
Have you ever read 2 Corinthians 5:17? It says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” and thought, “I don’t feel new!” “Did I miss it?” “Did it get lost in delivery?” All the while, feeling the weight of this superhero facade pressing down on you as you continue to play the part. The only problem with this picture is that God didn’t design you and me for superhero autonomy.
Believe it or not, when Jesus came from heaven to die on the cross for you and me, he outed us! You don’t have to pretend anymore. Your sin was so bad the Son of God had to die a bloody death for you. And everyone knows it. Your facade has been outed! So why are we so concerned with our appearances and anonymity? The fact is, there is no biblical support for the isolated, autonomous Christian. Paul describes the church very differently in 1 Corinthians 12. He says that we are a body, interconnected with one another. The way God designed us is a model for our lives together within the church. A life connected through life-giving, sanctifying, Holy Spirit filled community with fellow believers. A life that is transparent because we have been reconciled to both God and others.
You and I aren’t passive participants in the sanctification process, reliant on the next big program or the hottest three step process to personal growth. Rather, we are active in our own grace-driven pursuit of spiritual growth as well as our brothers and sisters in Christ. The greatest resource of the church isn’t found in the vault of a bank, in the excellence of its programs, or the brightness of its lights. It’s found in the people, the image bearers of God. It’s through ordinary small groups of believers committed to fellowship and transparency that true sanctification and maturity happens. It is within these groups that the cape is laid down so true transformation can begin.