In my great-grandparents’ day, life was very different from today. Less people lived in cities, more people lived in stable communities. Families spent more time together and stayed together. Churches operated on a “parish” model; the church was related to the neighbourhood. Everyone knew each other. Everyone was connected to each other.
Over the past few generations, this world has become increasingly disconnected. People relocate for job opportunities, leaving behind their networks of friendships. Family relationships break down and get complicated. Kids spend more time in after-school activities. Both parents often have to work to pay the mortgage. Families spend less time together. Teenagers shut out the world with their iPods and gaming consoles. Most people don’t know their neighbours anymore. And churches are made up of people who don’t live close to each other, and who don’t know each other.
In the past, connecting people wasn’t the main priority in the church meeting. After all, they already knew each other and were connected to each other. Generally, preaching was the main priority, as knowledge was scarce, and the only way to access knowledge was through an expert. Today, in a time of information overload, one of the main aims of church needs to be connecting God’s people together. We need to structure our meetings to allow deeper connection, greater sharing and honesty, stronger relationships. It’s not just for our benefit. When the church becomes a place of deeply authentic and connected community, it will be a beacon of light for the disconnected world around it.