Several facts recently caught our attention.
- In 1940, seven percent of Americans lived in one-person households. By 2000, that number more than tripled to 25 percent so that today there are more people living alone than at any time in U.S. history.
- Between 1985 and 2004, the number of people with whom the average American discussed "important matters" dropped from three to two. During that same time period, the percentage of people who had no one with whom they discussed important matters tripled to nearly to nearly a quarter of those surveyed.
- A Stanford University study found that as people spend more time on the internet, they spent less face-to-face time with other human beings.
These facts all point to the conclusion that loneliness is on the rise in America. Combined with the present difficult economic conditions, this represents a one-two punch to many Americans who are struggling to find their way.
As we pointed out in our book Fired Up or Burned Out, people need human connection to thrive. We are human beings, not machines. When we don’t experience sufficient human connection, we dysfunction. This may include experiencing feelings of emptiness, boredom and depression. It may lead some to engage in substance abuse to numb the pain (according to the National Center on Addition and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, America has four percent of the world’s population yet consumes two-thirds of the world’s illegal drugs and half of the world’s supply of legal mood-altering pharmacological drugs). Others may pursue illegitimate thrills to feel alive again and in doing so develop addictions to pornography, sexual encounters with prostitutes and one-night stands, or taking excessive business risks.
Current conditions present an enormous opportunity to glorify God. Consider the church in Acts 2 and how connected the people felt to the Lord and to one another. The 3,000 new believers were united together as one body with the Lord, just as Jesus prayed for in John 17. They were devoted to the Apostles’ teaching, to fellowship, to sharing the Lord’s Supper together and to prayer. They were generous in helping one another. They confessed their sins to one another and reconciled their differences before partaking in the Lord’s Supper. As a result, they were a church family who felt embraced and valued. The culture in the early church was in stark contrast to the cruel, harsh Roman culture that viewed compassion and mercy as irrational. It’s no wonder then, as Acts 2 states, the Lord added daily to their number. By 300 A.D. half the Roman Empire were Christians.
Our challenge to you is to play your part in making your church a place where everyone feels embraced and valued. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with God’s overflowing love. Pray that you will love the people in your church family. Pray that you will love those you come in contact with daily outside your church, regardless of how loveable they might be, so that they might want to know the source of your joy and contentment during this difficult time.
To consider what you and your church might do to develop a church culture where everyone feels embraced and valued, download and read this free article entitled Alpha Church: The Church Flourishes When People Connect. Resources are also available at the Connected Church Conference website.
Pankau and Stallard are co-authors of the bestselling book Fired Up or Burned Out: How to Reignite Your Team’s Passion, Creativity and Productivity (Thomas Nelson). Jason Pankau is president of Life Spring Network, a ministry that helps pastors and church leaders develop holistic, transformational, disciple-making communities (www.lifespringnetwork.org), and he is the author of Beyond Self Help: The True Path to Harnessing God’s Wisdom, Realizing Life’s Potential and Living the Abundant Life (Xulon Press). Michael Lee Stallard is president of E Pluribus Partners, a leadership training, consulting and coaching firm that helps leaders develop “Connection Cultures” that boost productivity, innovation and performance (www.fireduporburnedout.com).