“You’re an interesting species; an interesting mix. You’re capable of such beautiful dreams and such horrible nightmares. You feel so lost, so cut off, so alone – only you’re not. See, in all our searching, the only thing we’ve found that makes the emptiness bearable is each other.
In the movie “Contact,” scientist Dr. Ellie Arroway (played by Jodie Foster) travels through galactic time warps and wormholes to encounter an alien being who makes that observation. In spite of her intellect, education, passion for life and Hollywood looks, Ellie Arroway feels very alone.
The alien knows this. The alien knows the human condition. He’s been watching. His words speak to the heart of every human who has ever lived.
It’s terrible to feel alone, isn’t it?
A growing number of studies shows that more and more of us feel lonely. Despite an explosion of social media, busy work lives, overcrowded classrooms, active families and youth sports leagues, more Americans say they feel lonely than ever before.
Interestingly, this uptick in loneliness corresponds with a downtick in church attendance and membership. While most Americans still identify as Christian, a growing number don’t see the value of belonging to a church. Could there be a connection?
Think about those moments in which you have felt alone. Perhaps you feel that way now.
But you know you’re not alone. Certainly, God is alongside of you. However, you can’t touch God or see God. It takes other people for us to experience God at a visceral level . . . You and me. Me and you . . . We were created in the image of God to be in community – with him and with one another.
We can get community anywhere . . . Softball leagues, knitting circles, Rotary club, Thanksgiving dinner. That’s physical community, where being in the presence of others with similar interests lifts us.
But a church community engages us on a spiritual level.
Think about it . . . Church is the only place where we can experience an invisible God. We can actually see that hidden God at work in the lives of others, become agents of that God in touching the lives of others, and allow ourselves to be touched by that God in the community of others.
A recent sermon by Pastor Steve was titled “Christ’s Glory is Seen in Your Face.” That’s it, isn’t it!!! In community we see Christ in one another. Right there in our midst. He ministers to us directly through others who sit alongside us in the pews. And we minister to one another and those outside of our circle through our church community. It’s a perfect symbiosis. We are ministered to so that we can minister to others. And it all starts at church.
Some commentators have written off the traditional church. “Too outdated.” “Not needed in this age of social media.” “Something people no longer have time for.”
But they’re wrong.
One more thought . . .
Several months ago, I traveled across the country to testify on behalf of someone I love deeply. I was a stranger in a strange land; I didn’t know anyone else in that town or in the courtroom. If you looked up “alone” in the dictionary, that was me.
The court proceedings went as well as they could have. Perhaps better. However, when the individual was sentenced, it grieved me profoundly. I hunched over and wept in my seat as the individual was taken from the courtroom.
Along came Neil, who put his arm over my shoulder and prayed with me. Right there. Right in the courtroom. Completely unexpected. Completely unasked for. Neal is a member of a local church that does outreach into that town’s jail. He’s a Jesus Guy. Sees his work in the court and jail system as the ministry God has called him to. He was Jesus to me that day. Christ’s glory was seen in his face (and experienced in his hug).
That’s the power of church – even when we’re thousands of miles from home.
Some say the church is dying. But some things are worth saving.
© Ed Klodt, 2019
(Views from the Pews is written by Ed Klodt. He and his family are longtime members of Ascension. Ed earned his Master’s Degree in Theology from Fuller Theological Seminary, has served as an interim pastor and has been a longtime lay minister at Ascension. Questions and insights can be addressed to him in the “Views from the Pews” blog at www.alcto.org or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)