I had no idea what was about to hit me when I graduated college. I grew up in a community where my friends’ grandparents went to school with my grandparents, and their parents went to school with my parents. Everyone seemed to know me before I was born. Then I moved to college, which was its own small town where everything could be reached through a short walk or bike ride. We shared bathrooms and every meal together. Naturally, I made fast and deep friends.
I didn’t know that’s rare. Until I moved to the suburbs. All of a sudden, I went to church with people who drove 30 minutes each way. I worked with some people who commuted two hours per day. My wife and I struggled to forge deep friendships outside work hours. We needed help. We needed a book like Find Your People: Building Deep Community in a Lonely World by best-selling author Jennie Allen. Here’s how she describes our problem today:
We spend our evenings and weekends tucked into our little residences with our little family or our roommates or alone, staring at our little screens. We make dinner for just us and never want to trouble our neighbors for anything. We fill a small, little crevice called home with everything we could possibly need, we keep our doors locked tight, and we feel all safe and sound. But we’ve completely cut ourselves off from people outside our little self-protective world. We may feel comfortable and safe and independent and entertained. But also we feel completely sad.
How, then, can we find joy through deep community? As Christians we commend faith in Jesus above all. You can have great friends and still go to hell. But community is still important for everyone, certainly for believers. Next to Christ, Jennie writes, “relationships are the greatest gifts we have on earth and simultaneously the most difficult part of being alive.” When those relationships revolve around God, we enjoy a fulfilled life. And from that abundance, we bless others. When those relationships don’t revolve around God, we’re apt to idolize them. The pressure sometimes even kills those friendships, as our friends inevitably fail us. And we fail them.
Jennie offers her own life as a cautionary tale but also shares wise advice. I promise, you can’t go wrong following this line she gives to new staff with IF:Gathering: “Find an imperfect church fast, and start serving in the nursery.” Jennie joins me on Gospelbound to discuss the difference between complaining and vulnerability, the importance of time, and the complication of ministry relationships.
The Gospel Coalition