When you read through the book of Genesis, whenever God created something, He looked at His creation and said that “it was good.” But then He created man, looked upon Adam and said, “It is not good for the man to be alone” (Gen 2:18). He then created Eve and commanded them to to “be fruitful and increase in number” (Gen 1:28). God, who has lived in eternal community as the Holy Trinity, created us for relationship, with Him and with others.
We have long known this, long known the importance of Christian community, to encourage each other, hold each other accountable, and help build each other’s character. “As irons sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another” (Prov 27:17). But many of our cultures have forgotten this.
Friendships tend to dwindle as we age, with our number of friends peaking at age 23. Globally, the average person has only four close friends. In my country, the average person hasn’t made a new friend in five years.
And then The Rona happened.
As the COVID-19 pandemic forced people around the world into isolation, people began to crave community like never before. “A felt need that everyone has is for connection,” says Cheryl Boyd, Senior Digital Strategist with Cru.
At my church, people who had never attended in person before started meeting in small groups over Zoom. Another church started meeting on WhatsApp. Attendance at online churches have increased around the world. Some communities have gathered around topics, such as those in Kenya joining Instagram Live discussions around topics rarely discussed in Christian circles. Others have gathered around causes, such as those who joined the GO 2020 Digital Outreach campaign.
One student ministry in Portugal launched quarantine communities. “We asked our students what they needed. They said they didn’t need more info about the virus or not to panic. They needed community,” says Mike, a missionary working with students in the area. His team launched seven online communities, each around a different theme, that meet and communicate through WhatsApp. “Each community has a student moderator and we do a weekly coaching call to help them keep their communities active,” Mike says. It seems to be working. There are more than 330 students meeting in the WhatsApp communities, which average 100+ messages per day. Many of the communities do weekly Zoom meetings as well.
Though everyone needs community, there are many who don’t have one and don’t know where to turn. So what do you do then?
Though it can feel awkward or even scary to initiate, it’s worth it to reach out and start engaging with others. “I think you can be creative,” Cheryl says. She suggests going on social media and asking your friends there if they want to meet to talk about a certain topic, which can be heavy topics that everyone is wrestling with or lighter topics. “If there are things that you’re interested in that you’re missing relational connection with, it’s a pretty low risk to put that out on social media or amongst some of your friends,” Cheryl says. Something as simple as asking your friends if they would like to meet for 15 minutes every week to pray for the neighborhood can have a huge impact.
Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it. (Habakkuk 2:2)
- Invite someone to join your community who you think may not have one.
- If you don’t have one, reach out to friends about starting one.