Dear Church Family,

Are you lonely even though you’re not alone? In a newsletter a few weeks ago we talked about loneliness brought on from isolating ourselves, but here I want to qualify that isolation. Maybe the most common way we think about isolation is deciding to be alone. But it is also possible to isolate ourselves from others personally even when we are with them physically. That means we can be in a crowd and yet isolate ourselves at the same time. That means we can even have transactional conversations with people and yet still be isolated from them.

Intentional isolation in every form is harmful for our church body. We should and must be concerned about the scores of members who are choosing to physically isolate themselves from us by not gathering together with us. However, we must also be concerned about our own ability to isolate ourselves from each other even when we go continue to meet together. It is possible for us to enter into our default, perfunctory modes of communication in polite conversation and yet never allow one another into our lives.

Brothers and sisters, our presence together matters, but our mere presence together is not enough. As members of the same church, we have committed ourselves to this family with these siblings. Our relationships within our church family are designed by God to serve a number of beautiful purposes, one of which is seeing that we all make it home together. The deeper our relationships are with one another, the better our life together will be.

It has been said that the definition of friendship is a commitment to know and to be known. Sadly, our selfishness and pride fight against us so this won’t “just happen.” Biblical community is not attained passively. Of course, the more we are with one another, the more opportunities we have for our relationships to grow and deepen—but we must work at them. And that’s just it: we must not be content for surface level relationships. For some of us, it is harder to get to know others. For others, it is harder to allow ourselves to be known. But just because genuine friendship is difficult doesn’t mean it isn’t worth it.

Think of it this way: as much as we’re able, we want to labor to know and be known by each other in a way that reflects God’s commitment to know and be known by us. Of course, God knows us completely, comprehensively, and exhaustively. We know that depth of knowledge isn’t possible for us. However, the interest and care He shows toward us are instructive for the growing love and concern we should have for each member of our church. We have been given God’s Word and He has opened our eyes to see Him as proof that He has made Himself known to us. Jesus says to His disciples in John 15:15, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.”

Here are some suggestions for how you might seek…

…to know other members.

1) Pray that God would give you this desire and would bless your interactions when we gather.

2) Ask them about themselves, what the Lord is teaching them, how you can pray for them.

3) Pray through our membership directory (updated version coming soon, Lord willing).

4) Spend time with them apart from our regular gatherings, invite them over, read a book with them.

5) Seek out members you don’t know well by looking for them, then sit and talk with them.

…to be known by other members.

1) Pray that God would give you the desire and courage to open your life up to others.

2) Share what’s going on in your life, what the Lord is teaching you, how they can pray for you.

3) Work through questions you may have about teaching or something you’ve read.

4) Invite others to join you in something you regularly do or enjoy.

5) Recognize you are serving our body by allowing other members to know you.

May we ever deepen in our love for our church and God as reflected in our relationships with one another.