The other day I heard my favourite radio announcer discussing the need for community. “The church,” he said, must work harder to reach out to the lonely.
My first thought was, “Yeah, those pastors need to get to work.”
My second thought chopped me off at the knees. “Who is “the church,” really? Is it only the pastors?”
Even though we live in a socially networked world, supposedly more connected than ever, loneliness and isolation run rampant. A study by the Mental Health Foundation in the UK suggests 42% of their surveyed people have felt depressed because they felt alone. Yet, only 11% of people sought help for loneliness.
Studies also show loneliness taxes the immune system and loneliness increases mortality rates. We weren’t created to live in isolation. Our creator, God Himself, doesn’t exist in isolation. He is one in three parts: the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Have you ever heard the following expressions?
- A cord of three strands is not easily broken.
- Two is better than one for if either of them falls, the other will help him up.
- If two lie down together they keep warm.
All three are derived from the same passage in the Bible, Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. And each refers to the importance of community.
How easy it is to think in lofty terms about what “the church” should be doing to create community. Yet, “the church” is made up of individuals—me. And you.
Together, we form a community. We are supposed to support each other and live life together. And, as a community, we should reach out to the lost; to those who haven’t made their way to Jesus yet.
Within “the church”
Are you surprised to know that a church bench can be a very lonely place? During the time Hubby and I couldn’t take our daughter with autism to church, we traded off who went to church. Sometimes, I felt as though a spotlight was shining on the empty seats beside me. I was surrounded by people; all with families and friends. Even though I was with my church “family,” I was very much alone.
What are some ways to feel part of the church family?
Join a small group. No matter what you call it—life group, community groups, Bible studies, or support group—the idea is gathering with people who are willing to walk with you through life’s ups and downs.
Is it always easy? No. For some, opening up to strangers is terrifying. For others, like my family, childcare is an issue. But the blessing of having a support system outweighs the challenges. The group doesn’t have to only be people from your church. We’ve participated in neighbourhood studies and autism support groups. The thing that linked us was Jesus and the desire to follow Him. The point is not being alone, AND learning to welcome others in the same spirit with which you would like to be welcomed.
How to get started? One easy way is to go through the FamilyLife’s Homebuilders series.
For more on this topic read Ripple Effect.