An important part of what New Roots is about is to help us figure out how to hang on to faith and discipleship. Many of us are trying to do this outside of any formal church membership. Not being part of a church is not uncommon for those who would still identify as Christian. In fact – for many it feels like a better option in terms of doing the discipleship thing. There has been a lot of research on why people drift away from church and yet still claim to be Christian. One of the most accessible summaries is The Invisible Church by Steve Aisthorpe. This book, which is based on research Steve did for his PhD, outlines some of the reasons people may have for not being part of a church. ‘Believing but not belonging’ is a recurring theme. Well worth a read.
As churches haemorrhage members, there is an increasing number of us who still find Jesus enticing and challenging – and who seek to respond to the call to follow.
But there is a but to this.
As a person who identifies as a ‘non-church disciple’ I try to maintain a regular patter of prayer and bible study. The practice of some form of daily prayer is a discipline that I find personally helpful, it is a way that keeps me in step with Christ. Part of this includes using the Lord’s Prayer on a daily basis. Today I noticed something that I hadn’t really noticed before, of if I had noticed before I’d forgotten it! It’s the way the prayer is always about us, not about me.
Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our sins
as we forgive those who sin against us.
Lead us not into temptation
but deliver us from evil.
For those of us who walk the way alone, this prayer is a reminder that we really should be walking together. Discipleship isn’t a solo exercise. We may have chosen not to be part of a formal church community for a whole host of reasons – but we need to find ways of engaging with other disciples in some way – if we are to call ourselves disciples. It is very easy to turn faith into an exercise that is to do with just my own well-being. Mindfulness for me. But the way of Christ is something to be shared – together. Which may mean reviewing whether or not we can be part of a church community in some way. The church round the corner may be drab and dreary – but it may need you to begin to make the difference.
Making use of on-line communities and resources may be an important part of connecting with others who are seeking to be disciples. Which brings us back to why New Roots is here. To keep us rooted – together.