The Need For Community
With all the advancements in technology to help us stay “connected” with each other, we are finding ourselves more alone than ever (and the irony that I am typing this on my phone is not lost on me). We have a bevy of “social” networks that allow us the opportunity to share what’s going on in our lives and keep up with friends that might be halfway around the world and yet so many people are left feeling disconnected as they lay in their beds with the soft glow of their wireless devices keeping them company.
A quick Google search showed that there are numerous articles and websites that are promoting the idea that people need community to thrive, and the majority of these are secular sites. The world recognizes that people have a need to feel like they are part of a something, connected to others in a united mission. And it is here where the church needs to stand up and be a voice.
People are going to find their community somewhere, whether it’s through a peer group, online social networking, sports teams, or hopefully through a local church. It’s one of the reasons why our church has Connection Groups. We recognize the need to be a part of a community that provides encouragement, support and most importantly good biblical counsel. While many people in the world might not cite that as one of their reasons for wanting community, it is something that everyone truly needs.
One of the most important things that the local church does is the public preaching of God’s word and the gathering together for corporate worship. Not only is it commanded by God that we gather together (Hebrews 10:24-25), it is vital to the life of the Christian. However, we will become stagnant in our spiritual growth if we only use Sunday morning as a chance to build community within the church. Community is what happens outside the walls of the church, as we encounter one another in the messiness of our everyday lives. We all know what it’s like to put on our “church” face and pretend like everything’s going great and our lives are perfect. One of the great things about our Connection Groups is we see each other in our “regular” faces, interacting with our families, sharing about how the week is going, struggles at work or home, praises for what God is doing, praying for each other and encouraging one other with God’s word.
As a youth pastor, I see the same need and desire in teens. They want to belong to something, and the world has lots of options for them. My desire is to get them connected to our youth group so that they will see that there is a place of belonging and purpose. And one of the strongest reasons for trying to get students connected to a church community is because most of the other versions of community are misleading and empty. While they may provide instant feelings of connectedness, those feelings will fade, and in some cases just as instantly. Our “friends” on Facebook or “followers” on Twitter and Instagram are a paltry substitute for real, in-depth relationships. Screens still provide a filter with which we show people our lives. We cut and paste and edit out the bad stuff and paint rosy pictures that don’t allow people the opportunity to know the real us. And the dangers of this false sense of community are serious. As I mentioned at the beginning, more and more people are finding themselves overwhelmed by a sense of “aloneness” in spite of being a part of some sort of group, and it is this aloneness that has led to more and more accounts of suicide in recent years, according to reports from the CDC and other sources.
At the time of this writing, I am grieving over the news that another pastor took his life after battling years of depression. I don’t pretend to know this man personally and know everything that led up to this tragedy, but what I can surmise from reading comments by people who did know him and from his own personal comments on Twitter and Facebook was that he had a large support group through social media. Many people have made public comments expressing their sorrow and grief over this loss. Based on many of the comments, I don’t believe that the online community was the only community that he was a part of. I know that this pastor had actually founded a ministry for people suffering with depression and was doing a lot of good for people who were hurting.
If there is one thing I hope people would learn from this, it’s that we need Jesus and we need people. We need people who care about us and are willing to check in on us and truly want to know what’s going on in our lives. We need people who will pray for us, encourage us, laugh with us, weep with us, and who will ultimately draw us closer to Christ. Christianity is not a “lone ranger” mission. We are meant to support one another. If you find yourself craving community, or feeling alone, I want to encourage you in that you are not alone. There are many others who feel the same way. And I want to encourage you to get involved in a church group, whether it’s youth ministry, women’s ministry, men’s ministry or a Connection Group. Be a part of a community and lean on one another.
If you are someone who already has a community that supports you, I want to encourage you as well, to make sure that your group is helping you in your walk with Christ and then to check in on those around you. There may be someone longing to be a part of your community.
Soli deo Gloria,