5 reasons we don’t need community
“The reality is, we just don’t need community.”
That sentence proceeded from the mouth of a former small groups pastor in a conversation this morning at a local coffee shop. (This was said in the context of a larger conversation, much of which will be fleshed out below.) So much of the existence of the church–and certainly the existence of all forms of small groups–is based on the premise that community is essential to human flourishing. But is it?
5 Reasons we don’t need community.
#1 We have what we need.
The early church is often cited as a glowing example of true community. They were together every day. They ate meals together. They even shared their resources so no one was in need. And that was important because they really needed support from each other. There were people who truly were in need. As persecution of Christians began and spread there were those who were economically persecuted and couldn’t make a good living.
There certainly are places in the West where people don’t have what they need. And those tend to be the places where people actually seek out more community and share with each other. When I pastored a small, poor church, it was common to hear about people with a one bedroom apartment offering it to those who were homeless on cold nights. People shared because they needed each other.
My friend shared this example. In the past, when a hail storm came through and destroyed a farmer’s crop, other farmers would have them work the fields that had not been destroyed with them and then share in the harvest. It was necessary for existence. Now a farmer can just call the insurance company.
#2 We are entertained.
Why sit with friends, sharing stories and lives, when you can turn on the TV and watch professionally written stories that draw you into the lives of fictional characters who are so interesting? Why play a board game with family when you can destroy the invading alien army from your video game controller?
We have unprecedented options and opportunities for entrainment. Now I am far from anti-entertainment. There are some forms of entertainment that can bring people together. And there are times it is fantastic to watch a movie or TV show with no human interaction. But there is a reality that many forms of entertainment naturally funnel people away from community. We can be fulfilled, or at least distracted, all day long without any real meaningful interaction with others.
#3 We are busy.
There is nothing I hear more from people around me, especially church people (and very often myself), than that they are overwhelmingly busy. Many times this is true. We have been overcome by the wave of possibilities for activities and information and are drowning. We have no idea how to manage our lives in a way that would create the space for community. If we just stay busy we don’t even notice that deep community is missing that much. We are fulfilled and defined by our activity levels.
#4 We like ease.
Real community is messy. It can be very fulfilling, but it is messy. And messy means difficult, inconvenient, and uncomfortable. Yuck. It seems so much easier to keep to myself. Myself always wants to do what’s easy, convenient, and comfortable. Myself is such a good friend.
#5 We have pseudo-community.
Right now I’m sitting in a coffee shop writing. I’m surrounded by friends, er, acquaintances, er, people. I am smack dab in the middle of a pseudo-community. It’s like Cheers, except without all the actual friendships. (If you don’t know what Cheers is you should really google it.)
Then there’s the next level pseudo-communities like Facebook. I love Facebook. I even think it can be a really helpful means of staying up to date on what’s happening with people in my life. And the birthday app is a lifesaver. But Facebook and things like it can quickly move from being supplemental tools to substitutes for actual community. We feel like we know people. We get to let them know us. Even better, we get to let them know the us we wish we were.
In a couple days I’ll follow this up with the reasons we do need community.