Earlier this year, much of the US was under a severe winter storm. My corner of middle Tennessee shut down, and I did not leave the house for days. I already work from home (as does my wife), and we had a stocked pantry and refrigerator. We had Internet and TV, so we weren’t going to waste away for lack of food or entertainment. And we had each other.
What we lacked was community. Facebook doesn’t cut it. An online service is better than no service, but it’s hardly the same. It lacks community. I’m forever grateful for my wife, and—I’m going out on a limb here—I think she’s grateful for me, but we still missed the broader interaction with others.
As I consider how my wife and I felt, my heart goes out to those who feel they have no community or other people in their lives. And so many of these don’t people felt that isolation long before the ice and snow forced us inside. Loneliness is an epidemic in this country. I’ve written on this before, but I think the isolation so many people feel is truly tragic.
The epidemic of loneliness hides in plain sight. Ever been in a room full of people you didn’t know? You’re surrounded by people but you feel alone. Some people feel that “isolation in a crowd” all the time.
The health insurance provider, Cigna, did a study on loneliness. Here are some of their findings after talking with 20,000 adults.
- Feeling left out. Almost half of the group said they feel left out sometimes or all the time.
- No one understands me. One out of four adults feel that no one really understands who they are.
- Inconsequential relationships. Forty percent of adults feel the relationships they have don’t amount to much.
- No one to talk to. Twenty percent of the adults said it is rare (or never) that they feel close to someone or have someone to talk to.
None of this describes me, which is why my heart aches for those who live in the margins. I ache for them because there is an ache in all us for relationships. We were meant to live in community with others. Not just live around others, but in community. Community implies that we commune, that we share something together. There is a kinship, a connection.
We were created for just such a community. And the need for the church—a Christ-centered community—has never been more needed. Yet in the tidal wave of isolation and loneliness, we in the church have made it easier for people to stay in their little cocoons with our online services. We’re exposing them to Christ—that’s a good thing!—without exposure to the body of Christ. Yet that community—the body of Christ—is critical to our growth in Christ.
I’m not proposing we cease live streaming our services. Far from it. Keep it up. In fact, I appeal to church leaders to do it better. Make it easy to see and easy to hear. Give it your best.
But that’s not enough. We must do more than enter the lives of others digitally. We need to enter their lives physically. Let’s be present in their lives. That will likely mean going to them first. Invade their isolation, build a relationship, and them get them connected to a group of believers. Bring them to your small group, Sunday School class, or whatever you call your Bible study group. If that group has strengthened and encouraged you, it can do the same for others.
You are the key for someone to be set free from loneliness and find a community of people who will love them in Jesus. Invite them. Bring them with you to your Bibler study group. Make the call and go knock on that door.