I have seen an increasing trend in society over the past few years and since I am not a cultural scientist or a pollster, I would like to use this blog as a bit of research to see if you agree with this perceived trend.
I believe that people are both hungry for relationships and are holding others at arms length. I have seen this trend expressed in the small group ministry at our church where people will tell me that they are eager to get connected, but when the opportunity arises they are either too busy, or it just doesn’t work out for them.
So I am going to offer 4 observations regarding this trend and I would love to get feedback.
1. People are generally more busy with less margins in their lives.
From the way we communicate to the way we utilize spare time with apps, texting, TV, and a whole host of diversions, we don’t even have time to waste while standing in line. I have found myself waiting in line and when it was my turn I needed just one more minute to finish what I was in the middle of. We are not necessarily a more productive society, but I believe we are filling our days up to the brim, with good things that just may not prove to be the best. And relationships are an easy thing to give up for the cause of other less taxing endeavors.
2. Relationships are taxing.
Many people approach their spiritual life in an ala carte fashion. In a world where time is increasingly pressed, it makes sense that we would ask ourselves, “how will it benefit me to develop relationships with others at my church?” I believe that many will determine that there is indeed something to be GAINED from these relationships and so they embark on an attempt to develop relationships. But relationships with other humans are a bit tricky. Those other people are needy. They have issues. They sometimes talk too much or too little. They sometimes say things harsh or brash or just plain dumb. And so relationships are easy to drop in a life that offers a more tame and sterile experience aside from the taxing world of relationships. I believe that some are giving up on relationships because it is hard work.
3. People are hungry to be known.
I have had a strong sense for some time now that many people have one arm stretched out palm out saying don’t come any closer, while their other hand is outstretched palm up with their fingers waging the “come closer” gesture. I believe that all of us have within us, a strong desire to be known and to share life with others. Deep down we really want others to know us. And even the most introverted person, still has a hunger for self expression and someone to share life with. We are created relational beings, because we were created by a relational triune God.
4. People will spend time on what they value.
Someone who tells me that they want to be more connected while not intentionally investing in others is like a person who tells me they are hungry but never quite makes it to the kitchen. Unfortunately our hunger for relationships reaches its peak often when it is too late to forge those connections. I have observed in my ministry that it is the darkest times that our connections matter the most. The loss of a spouse, a child, or a job are just examples of the times when we most need healthy relationships. Those times also represent some of the most difficult times to develop those relationships. And so the times that we will most wish we had connections to others will be the times when we do not possess the mental energy to pursue relationships.
All of these observations are merely my ramblings on what I see as threads or themes in our current culture. It is increasingly difficult to connect people into vital community as a church leader. I would value any feedback and observations that others have regarding this trend in our culture. Have you experienced this “come closer but keep your distance” feeling? Have you seen a church that is nailing community? God has created the church as the gathering of his people. We need each other, and even though cultures change, God’s plan for us to be vitally connected to others in Christ, will never change.