I was on the BBC news website yesterday when I came across a tragically interesting article entitled Young more lonely than the old. In a nut-shell, the article explained that despite being more technologically advanced than ever before, in reality ours is a generation that has never been so fragmented and so lonely! In fact, while loneliness is a problem that is clearly affecting every element of society, it’s the young and ‘most-connected’ that are the most isolated and the most disconnected. The article states that:
“Nearly 60% of those aged between 18 to 34 questioned spoke of feeling lonely often or sometimes, compared to 35% of those aged over 55.”
60% of 18-30s are lonely! That’s nuts!! Nearly every single person in that age bracket has a phone in their pocket that can connect them to the rest of the world. The majority also have access to the internet and are registered with at least one of the thousands of online social networking sites that’s out there (Facebook currently has 450million users!!) They have more expandable income and more opportunity to socialise, travel and connect with others than at any other point in history.
Yet 60% of those connected to the world and surrounded by the crowd are lonely?
That’s so tragic! For me the greatest tragedy is that we were created by a God who is a community (Father, Son, Spirit) to be in community! When God stated that “It is not good that man should be alone” (Gen 2v18) it wasn’t just about ordaining marriage, it was about establishing community! Adam and Eve weren’t just the first man and woman/husband and wife – they were the first community too! When sin entered the fray just a chapter later it shattered both our vertical relationship with God and also our horizontal community with each other. We’ve been suffering ever since. Every generation that arises is a generation further away from Eden’s garden, yet the craving for community has never left us!
We crave it.
We look for it.
But we can’t find it!
So what hope is there for us?
Answer: The Church!
God’s answer to a world that has been torn apart by sin was the gospel mission of Jesus to reconcile us to Himself by His death and resurrection. Vertical relationship restored! However, in His grace He also reconciles us to each other by making us a new people who belong to Him – His church! In responding to the gospel we become part of His body, living stones who are being built-up together as part of His glorious Kingdom! Horizontal relationship restored!
Church should therefore be a place where true community is experienced and enjoyed. A place where the lost and the lonely find refuge, hope and belonging in Christ. A place where we are connected to God and to each other in love. So much of what Jesus taught and Paul echoed was the corporate power of the gospel. The “one another” teaching of scripture is a huge subject! We can only serve, honour, bless, greet, consider and love one another if we’re in community!
I guess the challenge is how do our churches fare in this area? Faith has become such a private affair that it would seem many of the 60% are sitting in our midst each week – part of the crowd but not part of the community. If that’s the case, the gospel has not fully taken root! Church is meant to be so much more than a gathering of individuals – we were saved to be a worshipping community on mission together!
By God’s grace while my own church, Hill City, is far from perfect, we are a community. A girl from the estate was saved recently. Interestingly what got the ball rolling for her considering the gospel of Jesus was the dynamic, sincere and inescapable love that she experienced whenever she was around the saints of Hill City. It was, in her words, unlike any other sort of love she’d encountered anywhere else! It instigated a process that ultimately led to her crying out to Jesus for salvation! Who saved her? Jesus! How did He reveal His love to her? Through His people!
We got to be part of it!
I LOVE THAT!!!
The beauty is that now she’s saved she’s part of the family. No awkward “how do we help her get her head around the weird ways of church.” It was the church that attracted her, so it only makes sense that now she’s part of it – she’s loving it!
God please help us as your people to be the answer to the prayers of a generation crying out for community!