Community: the Church’s greatest gift

In a world that seems more connected than ever, why are so many people struggling with loneliness and despair? And what can we the church do about it?

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One of the downsides of living in Australia’s biggest and busiest city is the traffic. As often happens in the evenings, for seemingly no reason, I was stuck, crawling through suburbs, bumper to bumper. So I was in the car later than I usually would have been, listening to Sydney’s Christian community radio station. It was the last day of the financial year and they were finishing their big appeal for funding. A man called in from Ohio, pledging a sizable donation. There was, he claimed, no other radio station like it.

Now I’ve never been to Ohio but, according to the internet, it is 15,229 km from Sydney. His comment? I’ve been around the world and never found a radio station quite like yours.

One of the greatest things our Church can offer the world today is an invitation to join a community.

The world is getting smaller. With internet and satellite links we can see pictures, hear sounds and read words moments after an event happens. We feel connected on a larger scale, a global village.

And yet people are craving community and struggling with loneliness. News from the other side of the world is available instantly but we have no idea what is happening in the lives of those around us.

According to a review of research by Brigham Young University, loneliness increases the chance of early death by 26 per cent.¹ Britain has been voted the loneliness capital of Europe.²

This is where we are blessed. As members of a church, we have access to people who share our interests, who hold common beliefs and values, and genuinely care about our wellbeing. It is a beautiful thing to belong to a family and when these ties extend beyond blood, it is special.

Nothing brings this home quite like travel. Attending church overseas is an awesome experience. Even when the service is in another language, it’s wonderful just to observe and see the things that remain the same, and those that are different. This is especially true of the singing. Hymns and choruses are the same tune but different words, and you try to follow the words on the screen.

I enjoyed this experience on a recent trip to Samoa. My wife and I were invited for dinner and we shared opening Sabbath with friends.

As we sat there, it felt like home. It felt like family. We sang the old familiar choruses, we discussed how world events pointed to Jesus’ soon coming. It felt comfortable, like an old work boot that fits nicely to the contours of your foot.

That’s why we need you! You are an important part of our community. With our small team here at Adventist Record, we cannot be everywhere. But part of our role is to foster a sense of community among our culturally and geographically diverse region.

So we need you to send us stories that are happening in your communities, stories that uplift and affirm, stories that may inspire others to try new ministries or services in their church communities. Telling stories from around our unique South Pacific home is something that can bless us all. Share your community and we will all be richer. But what about those who aren’t part of our community yet?

One of the greatest things our Church can offer the world today is an invitation to join a community. The beautiful scenes in Acts, where believers are brought together by their faith and hope in Jesus, to share, to support one another, and to live and worship side by side, show what community can be. It was, I’m sure, a taste of heaven on earth and a taste of what we can experience as we travel around different churches, even in this world. The challenge for us as Adventist Christians is to make our homes and churches places that others want to be, regardless of the darkness and despair in the world (or perhaps because of it).

Could this be the salve that we, the Church, can offer to a society looking for connection and community?

“By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if you have love one to another (John 13:35).

I’ve been around the world and never found a community quite like ours.


1. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2015/03March/Pages/Loneliness-increases-risk-of-premature-death.aspx

2. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/features/the-loneliness-epidemic-more-connected-than-ever-but-feeling-more-alone-10143206.html

Jarrod Stackelroth is editor of Adventist Record.

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