Sometimes I hate English.
Who decided that "you" (second person singular) and "you" (second person plural) would be the same word? I easily read through my Bible and assume all the "you's" are directed at me, reading the Bible, alone, somewhere private. Now, some would interject here "That's why you should read it in Greek! in Espanol! in context!" And I would reply "I really want to, but..."
The context of Christian discipleship is the Christian community. Most of us were never intended to go off like Rocky and train into the Russian wilderness to train. We don't pursue spiritual growth and the Christ-life apart from the body God's given, the body of Christ, the church.
Proverbs 16 indicates that "a perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends". Our communities are meant to be harmonious, close friendships nourished. But often our attempts at growing into a godly life pushes us away from other people.
I was talking to a friend today - a student at W&L - and was sharing with her a little bit about how I've seen her grow in her relationship with God this year. One of the things that really stood out to me (and that she's noticed in her own life) is that she seems to have developed a healthy balance in the way she relies on her Christian friends to help her live life as Jesus taught and modeled it, to "train wisely."
When she first became a Christian, she relied on folks too much (they started to replace God). When she realised this, she unplugged, but went a little over-board (I mean, these people were given to her by God to help her live the Christ-life). Now, she's in a healthy place. And I'm excited about that.
There are tons of reasons people shy away from the church. Surprisingly, one of them is that they want to follow Jesus and they feel that the Christian community gets in the way. (Check out this book for a thoughtful, productive approach to this phenomena).
No matter our reason - whether it's growth, shame, or arrogance - leaving the church behind always hinders our following of Jesus. Leaving a particular church can help (though not as often as we leave), but leaving the church never does.
Jesus loves the church. He changes the world through the church. You cannot be in him and not be in the church. This is the deep, body theology of 1 Corinthians and Ephesians and John. You may not go to church on Sunday, you may not like any of the various Christian communities you know, but if you are "in Christ" (united to him through the gospel), you are - mysteriously - "in the church".
The context of Christian discipleship is the Christian community. It takes a village to raise a Christian. And not just any village, the village in which dwells the Christ.
As we "train wisely", let's pour our lives into the church. It is the only place we were meant to grow, for it is the only place we were meant to dwell.