Community: With whom will you surround yourself?

Alone Together
According to researcher Sherry Turkle, a common flaw or missing characteristic in our society is belonging. Our desire or longing for deep relationship is not being satisfied by our evermore “connected” on-line society.  In our distracted, digital age, she says that we are “all together, yet very alone”[1]. We find ourselves sitting together at the cafeteria table, yet living apart due to our cell phones and constant updates. Why is that? The habits that we’ve formed through our digital lives, seem to keep us from living the abundant life that God intended. 

We need to down grade our digital lives and upgrade our real lives!
 
Here's what we mean. The time we spend connecting electronically leaves us empty, and actually leads us to disconnect emotionally from each other. We may have gained the ability to stay in touch or connected at the click of a button or swipe of our fingers, but we are slowly or quickly losing the capacity to commune with one another or have relational wisdom – to communicate clearly and stick it out when it gets difficult (endurance), to learn from others and adapt when we are wrong (humility), to be aware of self, others, and God, to resolve everyday conflict, and to empathize through listening. The world needs these qualities, not to mention employers are looking for them and will hire if candidates possess such “soft skills”[2] In order to regain depth of relationship, we need to give up some of our digital privileges. This is why we ask our students to give up their phones for a season of life. Are you willing to counter the numbness you may feel with Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by actually experiencing life, traveling the world with a group of committed peers, and developing genuine life-long friendships? Here at OneLife, we are not anti-technology, we are simply pro-community because that is where real growth happens!

Community Grows Character
Growth is not an individual pursuit, it is a community project. When we follow Jesus, we don’t get to be in the driver’s seat of our own growth all the time. We have to receive loving and insightful feedback from others. We have to surround ourselves with people who share a similar vision. The bible reminds us that, “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice (Proverbs 12:15). On our own, it’s easy to make foolish decisions that tend to be self-focus and self-motivated leaving behind the calling of Jesus. On top of that, the ages between 18-22 can be very uncertain years as we find ourselves asking formative, life questions like: Who am I? What is my purpose? What makes life meaningful? In fact, 80% of high school seniors do not express a clear reason for going to college or anywhere for that matter[3].
 
So, why face that uncertainty alone?

C.S Lewis says we need companions for the journey when he explains that “Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” [4] Who you surround yourself with directly impacts who you become, especially during the formative years of 18-22. Proverbs 13:20, states, “Become wise by walking with the wise; hang out with fools and watch your life fall to pieces.” Choosing your next community is an investment that will impact your future character. Community grows your character and character clarifies your calling, so choose wisely.

Well, we were never intended to navigate life’s most important questions on our own. We are hard-wired for community and we find clarity to what is most true, good, and wise in life by belonging. Think about it, God is community in His being – we are made in the image of a triune God (Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit). We can only genuinely come to know ourselves, others, and God through community. Or said another way, to know God is to belong to community; and not just any community, but a group of like-minded people who are intentionally seeking to grow in wisdom and truth.

So why is it so hard to find good community?

It may be because we are afraid from failed relationships in our past, we are just caught following the crowd in a direction we know isn't right, or we are too afraid to jump into a small, tight-knit community.
 
Community is Risky
Getting to know others can take time, but learning to be known by others can take even longer if we are putting up walls or have a hard time trusting. Living together in community that is under the reign of Christ means that we seek to fully know others, be fully known by them, and love them no matter what, just as Christ does for us. Pastor Tim Keller says, “To be loved without being fully known is nice, but is superficial friendship; to be fully known and rejected is our deepest fear, but to be fully known and loved is the Gospel.” Jesus invites us to love others and be loved by them, even in the midst of our fear. A desire to figure out life on our own is not an option according to Jesus, so we need to stop making excuses to avoid deep relationships with others.
 
According to research, 80 percent of the “church dropouts” or people that leave the faith never intended to leave the church[5]. It wasn’t part of their plan to not have a vibrant faith, but it happened slowly over time. So why is that? Well, many people fail to realize that being a part of Christian community is hard work. In our digital age, people need to practice the art of friendship once again, and learn how to grow with others – this, by the way, is a leading indicator to whether or not someone keeps a thriving faith throughout their life[6]. Said another way, deep friendships are not found – they are built through intentionally living and learning with others through the ups and downs of navigating life’s most important questions.

By joining the OneLife community, you are admitting that you want to grow by taking a different path than most people your age. We are a community that asks “who am I becoming?” before “where am I going?”, so that we can discern together what God is doing in the world and we can participate in it!

Will you join the adventure of developing a deep faith that is built on forming character, clarifying your calling, and growing in community?

Take a risk, by taking a year to walk a different path, and prepare yourself for ways the world NEEDS!

 

[1] Turkle, Sherry (2012). Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other. Basic Books
[2] “The Hard Truth about Soft Skills”. http://www.amanet.org/training/articles/the-hard-truth-about-soft-skills.aspx
[3] Kinnaman, David (2011). You Lost Me. Baker Books
[4] Lewis, C.S. (1971). The Four Loves. Harvest Books
[5] LifeWay Research Uncovers Reasons 18-To 22- Year Olds Drop Out Of Church, “ August 7, 2007, http://www.lifeway.com/article/?id=165951
[6] Garber, Steve (1996). The Fabric of Faithfulness: Weaving Together Belief And Behavior. IVP 

Zac Northen
Site director of Lancaster Bible College Campus