Adapted from the Weekly Grassroots Newsletter January 23-28
Here’s a not so fun fact: last year the World Health Organization designated loneliness as a “global public health concern.” Research has shown that loneliness is as bad for people’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. Loneliness is literally killing us.
I tuned into a podcast the other day and one of the guests, a pastor, had observed that a lot of folks have been duped into thinking that coming to a church service with countless other people each week, singing the songs and listening to a message is a sufficient antidote to combat loneliness, that being in the same room with lots of other people means they’re experiencing community. The irony is, and maybe you’ve experienced this, you can be surrounded by tonnes of people and yet very much feel alone. That’s because community doesn’t actually happen on Sunday mornings, at least not deep, authentic life changing community anyway. Don’t get me wrong, Sundays are great and they have a purpose for sure. On Sundays we collectively sing and we pray and we learn together as a big ol’ church family what it means to follow Jesus better together. So Sundays matter… BUT Sundays are not a substitute for community.
I’m convinced that resistance to loneliness does happen, however, in the context of home groups. So our community, has taken Northpoint Community Church‘s ABCs of small groups, we’ve tweaked it a bit and we’ve called it the A²BCDs of home groups. It points to things that directly combat loneliness – accountability, authenticity, belonging, caring and discipleship. These are all the things we’re striving to achieve through our home groups. And sure it’s a tall order, but the idea is that over time, through continued life together, meeting regularly and with intention, praying for one another and serving others together, folks will experience a greater sense of connectedness and less loneliness.
And here’s the other thing: when we do life in home groups, we are creating moments of potential. Potential conversations and experiences that can lead to personal breakthrough – be they spiritual or other. Potential life-changing friendships that can form outside of home group contexts. Potential insights from others that can help us deal with our own junk. Potential challenges to our assumptions and prejudices about others that can change our outlook.
In other words, incorporating a rhythm of regularly gathering with a small group of humans from our community has the potential of aligning us with the Way of Jesus which isn’t just personally beneficial but is actually better for the world around us, too. Jesus followers are called to be agents of reconciliation in a broken and hurting world and home groups can be a way for us to carry out that calling.
So my point is this: home groups matter. And you should join one if you’re not already in one. Not just because they push against the epidemic of loneliness but because they have the potential to lead to change in us and in the world around us. They’re an important part of the life of a Christian so seriously, join one. And by join, I mean begin attending a group and then commit to sticking with it. I get that we’re busy with life and so the ask is not a simple one. But I’m challenging you to prioritize, to cut the time out in your schedule to make it happen. The commitment is not outrageous. Most groups meet every other week. We’ve got half a dozen or so home groups happening right now and I’m almost positive there’s a group here with your name on it. And if there’s not, heck let’s start one. The thing is, none of us can do life well alone so let’s stop pretending we can. Find a small group of humans who are willing to encourage and challenge you, who aren’t going to judge you and where you can experience the joys and pains of stumbling through life together.