Question: Am I truly being a disciple if I’m doing it alone?
Answer: That’s a good question, especially for today, when social media has become a substitute for flesh and blood relationships with real people.
There are extreme circumstances where you have no choice but to be alone. I’m thinking about someone who comes to faith in prison or in a majority Muslim country, or who is confined to a hospital bed. In those kinds of cases, where it is challenging to be with other believers, I do not doubt that God considers their circumstances.
But typically speaking, no, you cannot truly be a disciple and do it alone.
Here are five reasons.
First, disciples are commanded to assemble with other believers:
not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching (Heb 10:25).
If being a disciple means following Jesus’ commands, and Jesus commands you to assemble with other believers, then you cannot be a disciple all by yourself.
Second, a disciple is like an organ in a body. Just as it would be nonsense for an eye to say to a hand, “I have no need of you” (1 Cor 12:21), so it makes no sense for Christians to say that we do not need other Christians for discipleship. Organs were not designed to function alone, and neither are disciples.
Third, disciples can only exercise their gifts with other people, especially in the local assembly. Paul talked about how each Christian has a different gift and the local assembly needs them all to benefit from them:
But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all (1 Cor 12:7).
Fourth, disciples are commanded to love and to do good to their neighbors. In fact, Jesus said that was the greatest commandment (along with loving God, cf. Matt 22:36-40). But that means you cannot obey the greatest commandment without being with other people, especially other Christians:
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith (Gal 6:10).
Fifth, disciples are commanded to be baptized and to eat the Lord’s Supper. Some would say baptism is the beginning of openly following Christ, while celebrating the Lord’s Supper with others is part of continuing to follow Christ. Crucially, you cannot do either alone.
I’m sure I could think of other reasons why you cannot truly be a disciple all on your own, but I hope those five are enough to make the case.