Is the opposite of loneliness, community?

3 Feb

Lately there seems to be a lot of articles online about people being more lonely than ever. Maybe this deep loneliness has always been around but for some reason right now I feel challenged by it. Thinking about it makes me sad and I want to consider how as we offer community to the young people we do ministry with we can counteract those feelings of deep loneliness. I mean come on as a Christian community we have everything to offer and I have seen first hand how the young people I work with bring life-affirming joy, real relationships, deep friendships and a sense of ‘doing life together no matter what’!

Now please understand I am not talking about people who actually like being on their own, I mean I used to drive around the M25 of a night just to get some thinking space! I want to talk about the difference between ‘being on your own’ which seems to be a choice, and ‘loneliness’ which seems not to be a choice. Our youth ministry needs to be more than a weekly group, more than ‘church’, more than the text conversation during the day. I truly believe, particularly through our Houseparty and Fuel ministry, that the community we need to offer encourages people to deeply invest in one another, to journey through life with one another. This means a sense of honesty and accountability needs to be encouraged and this wont happen with everyone but is worth pursuing with a smaller group of individuals. If all of us can seek to find these groups, and to be inclusive as we do it. Then these groups are able to journey together as a larger group because of the thing we have in common – the priority of community. Honesty and accountability are some of the hardest things to live out but at the same time they are able to provide a depth of relationship and friendship that is truly attractive and should be able to counteract times of loneliness.

Ephesians 4:2 says “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.”

I heard something this week which spoke about how young people aren’t wired to build relationships in the same way or to the same depth as the previous generation. I wouldn’t say I fully agree as I have seen a level of support and depth of friendship in our groups which would say the opposite. But I do believe that in our ‘instant friendship’ online world we do tend to think a deep relationships exists when the truth is, it does not. In my opinion a Snapchat ‘streak’ is not a deep friendship!

Pauls letter to the church in Ephesus speaks about this deep and secure relationship. Humility, gentleness, patience, bearing with one another, effort, unity; these are the things that build deep ‘loneliness-conquering’ relationships. This is what I want to pursue and what I want to encourage our ministry to pursue and promote. Join me in this risky, challenging but powerful and highly rewarding journey in community.

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