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The silent Epidemic that’s “Killing us” (part 3)

The Silent Epidemic That’s “Killing Us” (Part 3) by Akos Balough (Gospel Coalition)

Part 1 & 2 can be found on our church web site or the Gospel Coalition Aust web site

9) Churches Are a Potent Force Against Loneliness

Churches are islands of community in a (rising) sea of loneliness.

When living faithfully to God’s word, churches are places where people care, and where people from all walks of life are welcomed. Including those that are most vulnerable to loneliness: the elderly, the disabled (and their carers), and the socially awkward.

I have a rich web of relationships through my local church: a network that many (nay, most) non-Christian friends don’t have.

In fact, I often wonder how non-Christians get by. How does your average non-Christian (many whom live away from their families) cope when the going gets tough? When they need to take a child to hospital? When a spouse falls ill? Or when you just need someone to talk to? I’m sure many get by. But if the stats on loneliness are any indication, many don’t.

But is there more we could be doing for the lonely outside our church communities?

10) When the Gospel Comes With A Housekey

Christian hospitality as an antidote to loneliness.

Former LGBTI professor Rosaria Butterfield knows firsthand the power of Christian hospitality.

Even though she was hostile to Christianity, a pastor and his wife welcomed her into their home – and (under God) turned an opponent into a dear friend.

Rosaria encourages Christians to show that same hospitality to the outsider, in her new book, ‘The Gospel Comes with a housekey’. She argues that the purpose of Christian hospitality is “making strangers into neighbours and neighbours into family”.

With a lot of lonely strangers out there – isolated from others, and isolated from God – Rosaria’s call to hospitality is timely. Being hospitable is a key way of loving our lonely neighbours.

11) Helping The (Relationally) Poor

Could churches help alleviate social poverty?

Christians have been known to care for the physically poor, but in modern Australian much (although not all) of this has been taken over by the state. Centrelink, Medicare, social housing – the welfare state now looks after many of those in physical poverty.

But what about those who are relationally poor (even if they’re materially well off): who is caring for them?

Even if the Australian government went down the UK route and installed a ‘minister for loneliness’, there’s only so much governments can do.

Might Churches, embedded as we are in our communities, be able to develop ministries aimed at alleviating social poverty? Yes, our church doors are always open: but sadly many of those in social poverty will not come in (nor should we demand they come in before helping them).

I’m sure there are many ways of going about this: from regular community dinners, to play groups (helping isolated mothers); church sponsored social activities that get people out of their isolated homes. I do wonder if this is the sort of ‘mercy ministry’ that churches can tap into, seeing as the need is growing, and very few others are doing it?

(If your church is already involved in this space, I would love to hear about it below in the comments.)

The Ultimate Solution to Loneliness

Jesus Christ – ‘God with us’.

Society – and in particularly churches – can do much to alleviate loneliness.

But we need to point to the One who’s the ultimate solution to loneliness: ‘Immanuel’ – God with us.  No matter how lonely or isolated we might feel, God Himself is with His people,  bringing comfort and hope to our darkest nights:

Never will I leave you;
never will I forsake you.

In a world that’s growing ever more lonely, it’s an amazing promise. And one that’ll be fulfilled when Jesus ushers in a world where loneliness will be no more.