I have heard many studies that have spoken to the issue of increasing social isolation in Americas. One of the more interesting ones was conducted back in 2006 by Lynn Smith-Lovin, a sociologist at Duke University. The Washington Post cited findings from this landmark study:
“Whereas nearly three-quarters of people in 1985 reported they had a friend in whom they could confide, only half in 2004 said they could count on such support. The number of people who said they counted a neighbor as a confidant dropped by more than half, from about 19 percent to about 8 percent.
The results, being published today in the American Sociological Review, took researchers by surprise because they had not expected to see such a steep decline in close social ties.”
It’s time for the body of Christ to be the family Jesus has called us to and to reach out to our increasing isolated culture.
Creating Community Is A Game Of Inches
I love the game of football. It has everything you could wish for in a sport. Of all the things I have learned about the game, one of the most important is that it is a game of inches. There are big plays occasionally where a quarterback will pass for 30 or 40 yards, or a running back will find a hole and run for 50+ yards but, the majority of the plays go yard by yard.
Creating creating community is also a game of inches. One of the main reasons for this is that it requires change and change, especially in the church, doesn’t come easy. Your resolve to see community happen in your church may be realized in a painstakingly slow manner but you have to keep in mind that slow progress is progress nonetheless.
This is hard for me. I like to come in like a bull in a china shop and really stir things up. I want people to see how right I am. I want to be the coach that calls for the QB to throw for 50 yards. I am learning that this is not a wise way to live.
The best way is to look at the few yards that lie before you. Is there a need? Who can I be family to today? What grace can I show someone else today? These are the questions I need to ask myself. Oh, I still pray that God will give me that great touchdown opportunity, but in the meantime my business is just advancing the ball.
It’s High Time That You Swallow The Red Pill
I remember when the Matrix first came out. It was so mind blowing thinking that someone could be plugged into a computer and have lived their whole life in a virtual world. After the novelty wore off, I shrugged like most moviegoers and chalked the concept up to imaginative Hollywood screen writers. Something like that could surely never happen in the “real world”, I assured myself. Boy was I wrong, and it has taken me a long time to realize how wrong I was.
I dont have a statistic handy, but I would be willing to bet that a majority of Americans under the age of 40 spend as much time a day interacting with a computer as they do other people. This is especially true if you count other electronic devices such as flat screen tv’s, blu-ray players, smart phones, etc. Before you get the idea that I am on a tirade against electronic gadgets please rest assured I am not. I am sitting here listening to Spotify and typing this blog post on my Macbook computer. My point is that the overuse of electronic equipment has become a catch 22.
Think about it for a second. People who are lacking in community tend to fill that void with things like facebook, chatting, and texting. The more they rely on electronic equipment to provide them with interaction the less time they have to invest in others face to face. So the cycle continues until you have whole subdivisions of people who instead of sitting on front porches sharing their lives they are sitting inside glued to their computers chatting with their bff’s 10 states away.
I know I may be exaggerating a little but the upshot is we need to practice the discipline of unplugging from the matrix. You might be surprised to see who lives next door who could use your help. The gospel is spread in such ways.
Maybe its time for you to swallow the red pill.
If We Don’t Practice Community Nothing Will Happen
I had a very sad thought as I was preparing to write this post. It occurred to me that if we fail to practice community nothing will happen. Nothing will change. Things will go on just as they have, and all the gospel growth that comes from needing and being needed will go unclaimed.
It is amazing how even the most spontaneous among us are creatures of habit. We go to church each Sunday. We worship and take notes in the sermon. Maybe we even go to a Sunday school class and even go out to lunch with church friends. And all the way home in our cars we think how much we enjoyed being “at church”.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with the experience I just described. It has been my experience for most of my life, but as I have read and studied God’s Word I have come to realize how sterile it is. Such an experience is not the life on life, family experience that should be the basis for our walk through this world. Such an experience doesn’t allow us to see one another as we really are.
So what happens if you don’t practice community? Absolutely nothing. And that is the saddest part of all.