Unshackling the American Church: Restoring Community
Dan Edelen writes about Unshackling the American Church. The sense of community in America has largely been lost, and we all suffer as a result. Here’s a part of his post:
In his book Why We Don’t Talk to Each Other Anymore: The De-Voicing of Society, John Locke discusses studies that show that our dependence on technology for communication is damaging our ability to read instinctive social cues. Young people accustomed to interacting through computers and cellphones find that they can’t gauge other people’s feelings when confronted with face-to-face interactions. The result is an increasing disconnection between what one person communicates and another understands.
Dependence on technology is only a part of the problem, really only a symptom. We have squeezed community out of our lives by giving a higher priority to material consumption, success, and personal fulfillment. It really comes down to whether or not we place a high value on community.
Dan gives a number of suggestions for restoring community, although I think that it is a challenge to implement some of them in a urban setting. I have often reflected on the impact that the industrial revolution has had on families and social structure. We can’t all go back to the family farm, but we do need to find a way to counter the depersonalizing effect of urban living. Where my parents live in rural Montana, the neighbors wave as they drive by. People who meet on the street often say “hello.” In the city the social code is different. We learn that strangers don’t look each other in the eye when passing on the street. Saying “hello” to everyone that you pass seems ridiculous, and at times could even be dangerous. It is simply impossible to experience community with the large number of people that we encounter every day. Instead, we need to find community in a small tribe within the urban jungle.
The church should be taking the lead in building true community, yet we often suffer the same malaise as our secular counterparts. It’s time for us to return to more biblical pattern of life and stop letting consumerism and career-ism trump community. Do you value Christian community enough to deliberately choose to live and work nearby other members of your church? Do you value it enough to turn down a higher paying job that would require you to move out of the area? Would you turn down a promotion that required a lot of travel that took you away from your family and Christian community?
We must learn how to live in community in urban settings. If we succeed, the empty and lonely people around us are sure to notice.