Spare Change August 2017
A vast majority of people in this world are lonely. They long for a sense of belonging. They crave community. This was never clearer than when I recently went on a mission trip with the students to Chicago. One of the greatest concerns that church planters come across is loneliness. In a city of roughly 3 million people how can one feel so alone? It is true there are people everywhere; that fact was very clear to us as we worked in the different communities and traveled to and from our lodging. It was intense how many people were in the city and, if I’m honest, it kind of got to me by the end of the week. When we left I was never so happy to see fields of corn and the significantly less cluttered highways of Indiana. Living in the city of Chicago would definitely require some adapting; which is why so many people can move there for work and never have a truly meaningful relationship with another soul. It is so easy to get up and go to work with your head buried in your phone, carry on about your day and head back home—alone.
While this problem can be exacerbated in a large city it is also a factor in your city. There are scores of people, just like you and me, that are lonely. They might even be married and the only other person they know in a meaningful way is their spouse. Of course, there are some that are very fortunate to grow up and live in their hometown, they have friends and family galore. They may even take for granted the close proximity of their family. For transplants like myself it can be much harder.
The older I get the more I see the absolute necessity for community. Kristi and I have had to work hard to forge deep, meaningful relationships. We have the added challenge of being a couple in ministry and knowing everyone, but not really knowing them. We don’t want to let our guard down too much, afraid that people might see our flaws. Which ironically enough works the other way as well. Despite all of this we have produced meaningful relationships with many people. Many that we now think of as family.
This would not have been possible without the opportunity for community that the church offers. I want to emphasize the word “opportunity” because just because you go to a church doesn’t mean you have community with other people. You can go to church for years with the same people and never get past the surface. It takes diligent, intentional work to grow meaningful relationships. You must invite people over, do things with them, and share with them. It seems so simple but in a world where so many people are struggling with loneliness we need to get back to connecting with others. My life group has been a god-send in this area. We feel so close to our group, they are truly like family. But it only happened when we opened our home and subsequently opened our lives. We had to show people our faults, our eccentricities, our likes/dislikes; they had to choose to accept us, warts and all. This can be scary for many people but the reward of biblical community is beyond worth it.
I am a firm believer that God designed us for community, with Him and with other people. We need it, we crave it, and we can see it in the epidemic that is loneliness. God knows this and that is why he designed the church to meet that need. Don’t run away from relationships, don’t put your guard up. Lean into them and experience the church as it is meant to be. The cure for loneliness is you!
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24-25