Saturday, March 01, 2008

Answers to Loneliness

A rather interesting post at A Place for the God-Hungry.. Interesting because I have been continuing to wonder how to express the significance and importance of community and hospitality as I've been continuing my thoughts about my DMin thesis. First the post ...

Many, many people feel isolated and alone.

- Many men in their more honest moments will speak of feeling alone or friendless.
- Many ministers speak of feeling very alone in their ministries. One often hears the phrase "isolated and alone" when ministers are being very honest.
- Many people speak of how hard it is to make friends in their church. Some will point to a time, place, or church when they had close friends. However, they have never been able to have those same kinds of experiences again.

Some people admit they have few if any friends but will then say that they really have no time to invest in new friendships.
Why is the sense of being alone or friendless so common? What are some of the contributing factors? What can be done (either by individuals or by a church) to help remedy this?

A blog reader posted a comment ...

We can't help [but] acknowledge that many of our lives are so frenetic that we do not have room or time for relationship. You can almost see eyes roll when you begin speaking about real community and what it takes. People are thinking how idealistic that is and they question how they can possibly fit it into their lives between work, kids activities, chores etc. This same overly extended generation of people can hardly fathom the spiritual practice of hospitality in order to cultivate relationships.

As a church I don't think there is a cure all for this. Certainly we can position ourselves and our entry points to facilitate people getting into smaller groups of one kind or another in order to make connections with others. I think the greater challenge is trying to form a culture that prioritizes hospitality, service, confession, sharing and mentoring. Perhaps when Christians are being honest about their lives, testifying and praying over each other in public ways, the temptation to remain in a lonely place of guilt or shame will be less likely.
Sorry this comment is so long. You really have me thinking.

My comments ...

It is sad to think that this obviously intelligent person who makes the comment thinks the church has no cure. The church fundamentally is the cure - but not the church we see around us. Isn't Christian loneliness a symptom of the failure of "typical" church? I continue to wonder what the God answer is. How do we create faith communities that actually do alleviate loneliness and enhance community? I think we may each need to personally think back to times when we were experiencing what we felt was meaningful community and list some of the elements that made it so. Then each one of us must take responsibility for ensuring that our current communities reflect those characteristics. It will no longer be done for us - except by accident.

I'm really only thinking out loud here. I continue to speak to people about what this looked like for them and so far I have no consistent answers - just some clues that keep leading me deeper. I will stay in touch.

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