The collapse and corruption of most Christian churches is an aspect of the convergence of modern Western institutions, and consequently many Christians cannot find a church which both
1. Will accept them as a convert, and
2. Is worth joining (i.e. really Christian rather than a Leftist political fake, as is usual);
This means that there are going to be many lone Christians - that is, many Christians who pursue their religion rooted outside of any church.
'Rooted outside' means that someone may attend or support a church, or several churches, with varying degrees of intensity and seriousness - but he does not consider himself to be an obedient or devout member. His belief is primarily individual rather than institutional. Such a situation is de facto the case even with respect to many devout church members - in actuality they base their faith and practice upon their own discernment and judgment.
Lacking the benefits of institutional membership, protection and support - there must be some up-front, proximate compensation for these 'lacks' - or else real Christianity will be so negative, so bleak, so unrewarded, so unappealing as to be a non-viable life-path.
This means that the individual modern Christian normally requires to be sustained by a much greater spiritual-experiential element than was the case in the past - the lone Christian needs to experience direct contact with the divine in prayer, meditation and other aspects of daily life.
And this awareness needs to be conscious and explicit.
For example, we all experience everyday miracles, but very few people are explicitly aware of them - however, the lone Christian needs to become conscious of these many ways in which God intervenes in his daily life. And all Christians have an unique destiny, due to the uniqueness of their-divine selves - but the lone Christian needs to be aware of treading this path - and of when he has stepped-off it.
Having spiritual ('mystical') experiences used to be very much an 'optional extra' for observant church-obedient Christians of the past - indeed 'esoteric' experience was often regarded as a hazardous (because self-indulgent) possibility, and better avoided.
But things have now changed; and more and more serious Christians will need to develop their capacity for, and awareness of, spiritual experiences - if they are to remain Christian.
Very interesting point.
Eastern religions never had a Church in the Western sense, and their religion was always much more based on direct mystical experience - direct contact with the divine - rather than doctrine or theology or even ritual. (Although these religions do have a community - a sangha - of sorts)
Mystical experience seems to go hand in hand with no church, or perhaps vice versa.
How do you know that what you think is direct contact with the divine really is? Who interprets mystical experience and can discern true from false? Is mystical experience even what the spiritual path should be about? You do need some kind of church or spiritual authority to lay down and promote good teaching. The fact that it can be corrupted doesn't mean it should never exist. Everything can be corrupted. Mystical experience certainly can.
That having been said, we do live at time when the true aspirant has to go within as all outer systems are corrupt. But we should not forget that the inner path is fraught with difficulties too and can only be negotiated successfully with discrimination and humility.
@William - EVerything you say is true - but for many people there is no alternative - so we just have to get one-with-it as best we may. The alternative is to put off from ever starting.
There have to be people who don't need the Church to tell them which mystical experiences are from God and which from other sources, or you can't have a true Church that reliably guides the majority that do need a Church.
That's the basic truth of all social communities, the entire point is that some people don't need the community to tell them what is true, the community needs them. It's especially the point of a hierarchical community like the Church.
Anyone who actually reliably accesses the revelations of God will strive to encourage everyone else to do so by the same spiritual faculty. The mark of the true Church is that the goal of those administrating it is to have the members develop their own relationship with God. A church that tries to repress the ability of people to discern the Spirit of God from other influences so that they are forced to depend entirely on the Church instead of God has generally already been taken over by those who lack discernment (and humility) themselves.
The true Church has always and ever been emphasizing that every Christian needs to experience direct contact with the divine in prayer, meditation and other aspects of daily life. Mere membership in the Church without such personal striving to become closer to God is explicitly taught to be of no effect for salvation. Dependence on the faith of others rather than development of a deep connection to the divine is gently tolerated but continuously remonstrated. The teacher in the true Church always stresses that every member must become a disciple of Christ, not of the Church.
Whatever else is being taught, it is always clear that it is to be confirmed by the Spirit of God, not by reliance on the mortal brother's authority. Yes, God does sometimes call on those who are already receptive to the Holy Spirit to exhort others to listen. But if they only listen to the flesh, and do not ask or receive from God, whatever they learn cannot save them.
Another way of putting it is that (in practice) wise people regard 'the church' much as they regard 'the education system' - there are useful people and resources in the educational system, but we ought not obediently do what that system tells us to do; because that would be (overall) evil.
Some churches have some valuable rituals, people and resources - and we may use discernment to disocover and make best use of these. But it would be spiritual suicide to subordinate oneself to the church, to obey as one's prmiary duty. And even the best churches contain plenty of evil and error; in most churches the quantity and proportion of evil and error are (very obviously) increasing.
Of course the individual himself contains evil and error; but by retaining responsibility and with proper motivation he can repent, self-correct; and learn from the experience.
(I am only talking about the well-motivated Christian - the badly-motivated 'Christian' - who would be good only if he passively obeyed a Good Church is pretty much doomed, nowadays; or, at least, statistically *very* unlikely to find and join a Good church.)
In contrast, we can see that many/ most Christian churches are Not self-correcting, and Never repent their sinful errors - thus they fail to learn from their experience.
Indeed the reverse; they are actively embracing evil, more-and-more. This would apply to the Church of England, Methodists and the Roman Catholic Church - to give three examples. Why would it be good to subordinate oneself to such an entity?
For those "anonymous" Christians who need sustenance outside of the various church services, there are some prayerful practices which really help. The most ancient is the old Liturgy of the Hours, saying the Psalms in a translation of whatever language one needs. The Benedictine version is pretty much common with the old Anglican, Orthodox and Traditional Catholic communities. Even saying one of the hours, especially Lauds, joins one to the ancient Jewish rites, and is pretty certain to have been what Our Lord and the Apostles prayed.
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