Our culture has changed much over the last fifty years and anyone who has lived through those times is well aware of how much it has changed. Some changes are good and some changes are not so good. One big change in our society has been the loss of community . . . . . a personal sense of identity and rootedness found in close long term relationships. Technology has given us social media and instant connection with people that only masquerades as community, but it is very shallow and casual and can never replace the value of significant face-to-face relationships.
We see the loss of community in so many ways. Neighborhoods used to be communities; now they are mostly pockets of isolated individuals living in their own castles behind fenced in yards. Kids used to hang out together and gathered in backyards, played on quiet streets or in local parks. Now kids are shuffled off to one activity after another, never really hanging out together anymore. Parents used to be outside in the summer interacting with neighbors as the kids played with one another. Today marriage and family relationships often fall apart—more than 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Family life is no longer a safe and stable environment for so many people. The older generations often worked at one place or company their entire lives. Friendships were developed at work. Now people change jobs frequently and often commute long distances or work at home that friendships don’t develop beyond the workplace. Service and fraternal organizations are experiencing declining memberships—those were opportunities for long term relationships to develop. Churches were gathering places for spiritual development, but also places for deep social relationships. Kids hung out together and adults spent more time together than just a brief hour on Sunday morning. Communities were more stable as graduating students often settled in the community where they were raised; today people relocate all over often moving out of the communities they grew up in. People usually found marriage partners in those more stable communities, but now people need dating services to meet a life partner. I think you get the picture.
Yet we were created to live in community; our creator understood that. When God created Adam, he said it was not good for man to live alone in Genesis. Why? We find purpose, identity, encouragement and strength when we live in close healthy relationships with other people. It brings stability and rootedness to our lives. And the Bible is really a story of God’s people living in community with one another. This year as a church we are looking at the early church as it is described in the book of Acts and it is obvious that genuine community is a big reason why the church grew so fast.
As the church, a gathering of people with a common faith in Jesus Christ, we have both the opportunity and obligation to provide opportunities for community, places where people can connect and develop meaningful life relationships that bring stability and purpose to people’s lives. And that won’t happen when we just gather on a Sunday morning for an hour or so. We have to provide connection points where people can get to know one another and share life together. That usually happens in small group settings of many different types. It may be a Bible study like what happens at Summer Place or the Adult discussion group on Sundays after church. One day hopefully we will have many such small groups meeting throughout the week. It may be a service group that works regularly together like the men serving at Living Waters or a group of men coming together to assist with building maintenance. Or it may be social in nature like our retired members meeting for lunch during the week or the ladies meeting to crochet and knit together. The more connection points we create the more opportunity we will give people to become part of the community of faith here at Journey Church. It is in those types of settings that we grow spiritually in our conversations with each other and develop meaningful relationships.
That’s a challenge and a real opportunity for growth. Do you have some ideas? Bring them to the leadership. We are always open for new ideas and opportunities. That’s why Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 5:11, “That’s why you must encourage and help each other, just as you are already doing.”