And then, 20 years ago, we returned to the Bible Belt and moved into a small town, knowing no one.
I have struggled with guilt over the tremendous loneliness I have experienced over these past 20 years, though I guess I finally accepted it as part of life around 6 or 7 years ago. However, just lately I have heard of 3 instances that just about cover the gamut of experiences and all my guilt has finally left me. I finally truly see that I am not the problem; rather our modern church/culture is.
The 3 instances:
A 30’ish married couple with young children who have been part of a church for over a year in a new community they moved into. Lonely. Are wanting to move somewhere where they might have friends. Great people. Not weird or strange or shallow. Fun loving and interesting fellow believers. Lonely.
A 24 year old son on the edges of our culture who has never even pretended to attend church or have a serious relationship with our Lord since getting out of school and out on his own. Just admitted to not having a single friend (though he “socializes” a lot). But he sees the shallowness of his social life and realizes how lonely he is.
A very sweet 80 year old woman who has been widowed many years and been a part of an established church for probably over 20 years, going about doing good. Not self-righteous or pious or full of pity. But lonely.
And so I realize truly I am not alone. And how sad it is. And cry out, “Church, where are you???!!!) It is certainly not what is out there now.
I am interested to see what Mr. Viola and his friend have to say as to what the church truly should be. I understand that first we must lift up our Lord and that our goal is a relationship with Him — not friendships. I am on board with this. Yet He walked this earth and died for us — for others. Can we do less?
Editor’s Note: I remember reading of an exercise a researcher did. He visited many churches over the course of a year paying close attention to whether he was noticed or not. More often than not, he got out without anyone having ever spoken to him. Today, that is not the case. We have plenty of people designated to interact with anyone and everyone who comes through the doors of the church building. Sadly, though, the continuing testimony that I hear is either “I don’t feel welcome,” or “I’m lonely.”