Once upon a time, in a land far away, in an age of castles, kings, and popes, there was a group of people known as hermits. These Christian hermits, also known as eremites, would go far from homes, towns, and civilization to live alone or in small enclaves of other hermits. They thought that they could become more holy by withdrawing from society and other people.

Hermit Crab Christianity, And How To Make It Stop

The heyday of the Christian hermits is supposedly long gone. Unfortunately, there are still many Christians who practice a functional eremitic lifestyle. I call it Hermit Crab Christianity.

Do You Recognize Hermit Crab Christianity?

Christians should spend time with other Christians. In fact, Christians are commanded to love one another, care for one another, give to one another, and fellowship with one another. Yet the Christian community serves a purpose bigger than self-sustaining, self-caring, inward-focused activity.

I see Hermit Crab Christianity in the way we choose to invite people for play dates, golf partners, dinner guests, pool parties, exercise partners, vacation groups, carpool riders, moving help, and so on. It’s not that Christians are withdrawing into solitary confinement. Rather, it is that Christians are spending all their time with other Christians, neglecting the mandate to share their faith with nonbelievers (Matthew 5:13-16; Matthew 10:7-14; Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Acts 1:8; Romans 10:14).

Our daily lives provide ample opportunity to befriend and love those who have not yet come to faith in Jesus. Our role is to look actively for these opportunities and eagerly seize them.

How to Come Out of Your Shell

Hermit Crab Christianity has become such an ingrained part of our Christian culture, making it hard to come out of our little Christian huddles. Either we stay in our homes and our churches, or we journey forth in a Christian cluster. Of course, you should not neglect your interaction, discipleship, and fellowship with other Christians. Instead, devote some of your time to cultivating relationships with others—with nonbelievers. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Join a community sports league.
  • Participate in your homeowners association (HOA) meetings.
  • Volunteer to feed the homeless and hungry in your area.
  • Train to help at a local crisis pregnancy center.
  • Attend special events at local parks, libraries, and cultural centers.
  • Invite neighbors over for a meal.
  • Offer to carpool with coworkers who may live nearby.
  • Find a good match for your skills and schedule by volunteering for a local cause (www.volunteermatch.org).
  • Host a (free) backyard barbecue for neighbors on your street or block.
  • Offer to babysit the children of neighbors (for free).
  • Offer to help neighbors with gardening, moving, repairs, or other two-person tasks.
  • Take a class at your local community college.
  • Offer your home for a foreign exchange student.
  • Train to become a foster parent.
  • Join a health club or YMCA.
  • Help build homes for Habitat for Humanity.
  • Introduce yourself to the barista, cashier, or gas station attendant whom you keep meeting.

There is nothing complicated or difficult about interacting with other people. It is a step out of your comfort zone, but it is a good step. The entire purpose of destroying Hermit Crab Christianity is to carry out the spread of God’s Kingdom right where we are—in our towns and communities. It is our responsibility and privilege as Christians to spread the good news to those around us. This week, find someone who needs the good news, and begin to build a relationship.

About The Author

Daniel Threlfall

Daniel Threlfall has been writing church ministry articles for more than 10 years. With his background and training (M.A., M.Div.), Daniel is passionate about inspiring pastors and volunteers in their service to the King. Daniel is devoted to his family, nerdy about SEO, and drinks coffee with no cream or sugar. Learn more about Daniel at his blog and twitter.

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5 Responses

  1. Don

    You seem to have something “against” contemplative monks and nuns! I wonder if you have studied the important role they play for the “active” Church.
    You also sound like encouraging proselytism — converting “non-believers” (muslims, jews, buddhists, taoists?) to christianity.
    Sorry, I don’t share the same perspective (christian?) that you maintain.

    • Phil Taylor

      I see no place in the New Testament where any Christian is directed to remove himmself/herself from society and live in a lifestyle of isolation for any reason. The apostles in Act 6:2-4 “gave themmselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the word” but they clearly had a very public ministry. Christians are mandated by Jesus Christ to make disciples in the Great Commission. The only way to accomplish that is to make contact. And yes, Jesus and his apostles encouraged conversion,(Acts 3:19 “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out”) that is what the gospel is about.

  2. Julia Alliger

    Whoa! The eremitic life is NOT a life of hanging out with other Christians at the country club! It is a particular calling to live apart in a life of holiness in order to pray, teach, write, and disciple others. “Hermits” are an important part of the Christian community, especially in times when “church” is so deeply embedded in a sinful world. There are still many who take vows of poverty, chastity and obedience; they still have much to teach us. While I get your general point, I don’t think you needed to show contempt for the entire monastic movement to do it!

  3. Lynette Rolle

    I agree with your thought. Jesus said go into all the
    world and preach the gospel. What better way to do that by interacting with people for the purpose only to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the Power of God into Salvation.

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