Bethany Christian Fellowship in Smith
I would argue that all people are looking for community. My faith tells me that the reason that we look for community is that we are designed for relationships. We are not made only for a single relationship or even a few,
I would not say “I have God, and my wife/family, therefore I am complete”. Those relationships are important and central to my life, but I do not think either God or my wife would say that I do not need other relationships too. I would suggest a model of our needed relationships that starts with our most defining relationships and moves outward in growing circles, or like an onion (but not a cake). Christianity says that for a properly organized, good and full life the most defining and important relationship must be with Jesus, because no other relationship can bear the weight (Christianity also says we have a problem of putting things at the center that cannot bear the weight and it results in many troubles for us, but that is another article). Family, both my family of origin and my growing family come next, then I would say comes a layer of friends and church community, it is a broad layer, then comes my community (the local level) and then comes bigger community (like province and nation) then comes global community. Hopefully that model makes some sense, if you are like me, you might recognize that my model does not exactly line up with my reality and that is a source of some of my frustrations, pains and anxieties.
If that model makes sense, I would like to focus on a part of it. If it does not make sense to you, then I doubt this next part will either, but I would thank you for your continued attention! To my understanding, our society and time has a real problem with the layers of community. As I read about the current experiences of others, as I meet with people, I find that there is a growing frustration with community programs and associations.
If it makes anyone feel better, it is not just churches. Organizations, programs and community groups of all stripes have a decline in attendance and service. For many groups just to get people to show up for an offered service is a win. For many people, we are willing to show up occasionally, but we are very reluctant to commit to anything.
I think there is a serious problem in the way our world works when the layer of friendship and community is as weak and thin as I perceive ours to be. We more easily connect with a group online that requires no proximity, that we can back out of easily, and that has people who seem to be just like me. I often find that I long for strong community organization and organization, but like many others, it feels like I cannot commit, I am too busy and there is too much going on.
The irony is that if we want real community we need real commitment. If we want real commitments, we need a real community. We have neglected both. While the memberships and hours devoted to programs like Netflix and Disney have exploded, our feelings of busy-ness, isolation, disconnection and despair have grown too. The hard truth is that we have been choosing this. The good news is that the first step to fixing it is just out your door. Find something, one community group, and commit to it. We might be surprised by the results.