We were made for community.
Society encourages us to be independent individuals, responsible for no-one but ourselves, and nothing but our own pleasure. Even in church, we have placed increasing emphasis on our individual experience of God. We base our theology on Jesus as a “personal Saviour”. We design the worship service to provide an inspiring experience for the individual worshipper. We place people in rows to take away the distraction of seeing each other and avoiding the pressure of having to contribute or interact. We turn our congregation into isolated individuals, comfortable and safe in non-participation.
Maturity is not found in independence, but in interdependence. We need each other. No man is an island. We are happiest when we are in strong and safe relationships, relying on one another and meeting each others’ needs. Jesus was very clear in his instructions to us to actively love one another. He never intended for us to only look after ourselves. God is relational and connected. He designed us to function best in community.
The popularity of social media tools such as Facebook reminds us that people want to be connected. The church has one key element for deep connection that the internet cannot provide. For a completely human experience of community, we still love to be physically present with other humans. The most powerful way to communicate is face to face. Only then are we able to pick up on and respond to the facial expressions, nuances, tone of voice, body language and gestures which turn words into communication. Our non-verbal skills convey emotion and empathy to each other. Direct eye-contact is a powerful way for us to connect and show respect and attention. However, it doesn’t even come close to a spirit of community when we place people in rows and only allow them to see the backs of each others’ heads. We need to circle up and see each other to unlock the potential of the church as a community.
The world is desperate for true community. God’s solution is the church. Jesus commands us to love one another – he says this is how people will know that we are his followers. But how can we get to know each other and minister to one another’s needs if we don’t get to talk to each other or even make eye contact? How can we encourage each other, teach each other, and spur one another on to love and good deeds, if we can’t even see each other?