On bowling and loneliness...

Awhile ago my husband and I were part of an apartment ministry. The goal was to create community with the underlying mission to spread the gospel through the platform created by relationship. It's a stellar ministry for many reasons, but it's strength was on it's implementation. Before giving out tracts or quoting scripture, they asked us to focus on living together, loving deeply, and cultivating strong relationships. 

Those relationships ultimately made a platform for speaking into the lives of those who desperately needed answers, but also--and more importantly, my husband and I learned we desperately needed them. 

The people we met taught us much. Some are relationships I treasure to this day. Others have gone on, but are remembered fondly for the deposits they made in us. Living with the goal of intentional relationship changed us and stretched us in ways we never imagined. 

And then we got lazy. 

We moved on from the ministry, life was busy, we both worked, and new relationships seemed hard to cultivate. It took work. We were tired. {insert list of excuses here} Before long we noticed how isolated we'd become and how dull our lives had gotten without others in it, especially those that were unlike us. 

In the book
Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam explains that the average American has fewer friends and circles of influence. While the internet may be helping us connect digitally and globally, we're isolating ourselves relationally. 

And in the church, especially, it becomes easy to get lazy about relationship and dare I say--elitist. We're encouraged by our leaders to surround ourselves with those who believe as we do, live as we do, see the world as we do and in the process we sacrifice the benefit of having deep relationships with those unlike ourselves. Suddenly the body of Christ has a lot of similar appendages and we go limping about, wondering why the rest of the world doesn't find our faith culturally relevant. 

Add in being part of the church IN America, a society that's pace is ever increasing and you've got a serious problem. Mother Theresa once called loneliness
 'the leprosy of the West' and it seems she may have been on to something. So how do we become intentional about this community thing?

  1. Put down the technology! It's hard to have a conversation talking at the back of an ipad. Living in the age of technology has made us forget some communication basics like eye contact and body language. Nothing you do will invest in another better than making them feel heard and seen.
  2. Get out of your comfort zone. Relationships take work  and you don't always tangibly get back the effort you put in, but there's no better investment. There are only two things in life that are eternal and one of them is the person sitting in front of you.
  3. Take a risk! Don't always wait for someone else to organize a get together or invite you out. Be the instigator. The worst anyone can say is no, and it's not often personal. 
  4. Cultivate variety. Get to know someone who has another worldview, who doesn't dress, think, or talk like you. You'll learn stuff and be stretched. It's a good thing, I promise! 

Here's one more thing. It's okay to have friends who don't believe in Jesus *shocker*! In the church we act like somehow, someway, their unbelief will magically rub off on us and like stumbling off a cliff we'll nose bomb into a life of debauchery and drunkenness. And while I recognize the importance of having those who can speak into your life that are believers, it's just as important, maybe even more so, to cultivate relationships with those who aren't.

Jesus hung out with all sorts of people from every kind of background, creating a platform of love and relationship that literally changed the world. And so too, should we.

Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.


  1. Right now, my husband and I are in the isolated category. We really don't make much of an effort to reach out to people, and our church attendance has dropped dramatically.

    It's hard to find time connect with others (insert various reasons).

    We're always online and on the internet, though.
    Great blog post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Cecilia, thanks for popping by and the encouragement. I think we can all relate to isolating ourselves. The internet makes it that much easier. It gives us a false sense of community in a way.


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