The Solitary Sabbatarian
(Written by Jim Rohrer)
Some denominations respect the role of the solitary believer, starting, perhaps, with hermits. However, most churches will say the “lone wolf” is not possible. Without fellowship, faith will wither. We are directed in scripture to assemble.
Still others insist it is better to worship alone than to participate in Sunday worship. We also could remember that on the frontiers of history, solitary believers often have found themselves far from any organized church. Joseph found himself alone and managed to get by. Moses was often isolated in his faith after his return to Egypt, but he found favor with God anyway. Today we can ‘assemble’ virtually.
For the sake of argument, let us just say that some people do not want to support Sunday worship or pagan practices. In most smaller towns in North American, they will be on their own. To be fair, they could join a cult or find a church that relies on nonbiblical sources for its doctrine, but we can rule out those options.
In my opinion, seeking perfect doctrinal agreement is not necessary or desirable. We can learn a lot from people with different opinions and we can expect our own understanding to grow over time. My personal network of friends who are willing to exchange ideas with me includes the following: a Messianic Jew in southern Wisconsin, a committed practitioner of the family house church model in Europe, a believer in Minnesota whose faith seems to be anchored on the pre-tribulation rapture, and a retired evangelical pastor in Tennessee who converted to eastern orthodoxy. We challenge each other and this improves our own apologetics. I fear the day when these friends drop away due to natural processes.
A solitary worshiper could start a house church. The earliest churches were house churches. Believers could operate churches in their own homes which revolve around their families. Even if you can make that work, eventually the nest will be empty. At that point, the worshiper is no longer in a church.
The solitary believer can practice bible study independently and watch live-streamed or recorded worship services. Several churches open their bible study groups to online participation. However, when those churches have face-to-face services, they must focus on nurturing their local members. After some experimentation, I have concluded that solitary bible study is better for me. Curriculum materials are available, but I prefer to read the bible and consult some commentaries instead of relying on packaged course materials. Streamed sermons can be inspirational, but many are not. The music can be wonderful but often is not. The spiritual practice of bible study is the foundation of worship for the solitary Sabbatarian.
The problem solitary believers encounter is social isolation. If they assume that their personal relationships must come from a church, they will be lost and lonely. The “church of Facebook” might work for some, but I do not see how. (I wish it did work for me.) The solitary believer should find friends the usual way: from family and acquaintances. I will fire off a message to another believer during the week, but I do not rely on that interaction to keep me sane.
At its core, the value of solitary Sabbatarianism lies in having a faith identity; it gives focus and structure to your Christian practice. The value of spiritual discipline and sense of belonging to a far-flung, if ephemeral, group of believers should not be under-rated. These things contribute to that sense of peace we all seek and which the Lord offers us.