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Guest Blogger: Not Alone in Feeling Alone

Posted by on May 16, 2011 in community, fellowship, guest blogger | 20 comments

Guest Blogger: Not Alone in Feeling Alone

I’ve invited several people to write “guest blog posts” for this blog. There are several reasons for this: 1) To offer different perspectives. 2) To generate even more discussion and conversation between blogs. 3) To introduce other bloggers to my readers.

(If you are interested in writing a guest blog post, please contact me at aknox[at]sebts[dot]com.)

Today’s post was written by Dan from “The Ekklesia in Southern Maine.” You can also follow Dan on Twitter and Facebook.

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So Alan asked me to write a guest post for his blog. I asked him what he wanted me to write about and after saying “the church” which didn’t really narrow things down too much, he asked me, “What is the one thing you would want to say to my readers?”

“You are not alone.” That is the thing that I want to say to you. You are not alone, even when it feels like it. Many readers on this blog see the value of community and meaningful relationships among the Body of Christ. Many readers on this blog have faced resistance when trying to implement those things into their lives and into the group of believers they are part of. That can be very discouraging and often very lonesome. I know. I’m there.

Some of you may have gone to seminary with Alan, and may have had the opportunity to be part of the great community of believers that he is part of in that area. You may have left school thinking that you would find something or be part of something similar when you arrived wherever you were going. If you are like me, you quickly found out that it wasn’t going to be that easy. Strong, community-minded bodies of believers are not found around every corner, and very often they are not as equipped to integrate new people as the one in this community.

Others of you may read about all this stuff and think, “I would move anywhere for this,” or, “This is all wonderful, but completely utopian and unrealistic.” You have never been part of any kind of real community of believers. You have never seen pastors who step aside (or more like “step in”) and let the congregation minister to each other. You find all the talk of these wonderful things to be so far from your experience that you never expect to see it in real life.

One thing is certain, for both of these groups of people, it can be extremely discouraging to read of (or remember) the wonderful blessing of being part of a community of believers who encourage each other to grow in Christ – who laugh together, cry together, and live together – and then look around yourself and see nothing like that.

I had the opportunity to observe this kind of community when I was at seminary with Alan. I never really put the effort into being part of that group. But I saw how they treated each other, and it was really quite wonderful. I saw how people were growing together and helping each other along, and it seemed like such a great expression of the love of Christ among his body.

Then I moved back to Maine. I had stuff going on in my life at the time, and I wasn’t interested in people being close to me. It was a couple of years before all that stuff settled down and I started to really desire to be part of a community of believers, for me, for my wife, and for our kids. That was over a year ago now. We have spent time with many nice people, we have even visited a couple of “house” churches. The people either lived too far away, or the “house” church was just like everything else we had already seen from the institutional church: we all met on a certain day, sang some songs, talked about the Bible, ate some food (this was a nice addition to the traditional service!), and went our separate ways until next weekend. Obviously not the community or “shared life” we were thinking of.

The struggle is that being part of a close community of believers is hard work. You can’t just go to a once-a-week service. You have to take time to spend with those people, care about those people, and make an effort to share your life with them. This is hard and something I am not very good at. It is even harder when there aren’t a group of people already doing that, a group that you can integrate yourself into.

There are lots of other reasons that this is so difficult, but suffice it to say that it’s hard. I think that there may be quite a few people that read this blog, and think that they are the only ones who can’t make this happen, who can’t find and be part of this kind of community, who want to be the church as Christ called us to be but just don’t know how. You are not the only one. It is hard for many of us, and many of us, myself included, are nowhere near anything like that. We are no longer content with traditional church structures and “Good morning brother, how are you?” type relationships. But we can’t seem to find the deeper relationships, the more meaningful fellowship, and mutual edification. So, ironically, in our pursuit of more honest and meaningful relationships with our brothers and sisters, we end up alone and alienated.

I could give you “the answer,” but I don’t have it. We have Christ. We are never alone, but sometimes it sure can feel that way. So when you are feeling discouraged and disappointed about where you are, just know that you are not alone in feeling alone.

Am I the only one who struggles with this? Why do you think it’s so hard? Are you part of a community of believers and still feel this way sometimes?


20 Comments

  1. 5-16-2011

    I think that the beard that Dan is sporting make him look like Martin Luther with a cool Maineish hat

  2. 5-16-2011

    Thanks Dan for Sharing. I’m with you. I know we are not alone. Even though locally I do feel alone. I’m still finding community with other believers who are committed to institutional church. My commitment to institutional church has well… died. So I watch my brothers and sisters spending their energies on stuff that I question. I wish my community had more focus on relationships with each other, and less on the programs and meetings about meetings etc. But I have to be thankful for the relationships I have with these brothers and sisters, and do my part in building them up and encouraging them. My desire is to be part of a more organic community… but I’ll have to wait.

  3. 5-16-2011

    Jason,

    Dan = the Maine Martin Luther? ;)

    Jon,

    You can build organic relationships with people who are in institutional churches. It will probably be difficult (as you’re finding), but it is possible.

    -Alan

  4. 5-16-2011

    Jason

    Your comment about me looking like Luther is funny since, you can’t see this but, I am wearing a shirt that says “The Pope is my Homeboy.” I’m sure Luther would have loved that!

    Jon

    I think what you are describing is where a lot of people are: “My desire is to be part of a more organic community… but I’ll have to wait.” but I also think that you hit on something important, that we can find community with brothers and sisters who are part of the institutional church as well, maybe we just can’t do it IN the institutional church or through it’s programs but there are certainly brothers and sisters in all different walks of life who want community.

    I appreciate the feedback!

    Dan

  5. 5-16-2011

    Thanks for this post brother. We left the institution after pastoring for 20 years and relocated. Efforts at simple church have ranged from visiting a house church headed by a megalomaniac, being told there was no room at the inn when inquiring about visiting another home group, and various attempts to go sit in a pew which induced *total boredom*. Efforts to connect with others re: planting something have not been fruitful. We do have limited fellowship with some here who are planted in the institution. It is FAR from where we want to be–living in an organic community. Jon’s words could very well be my own. Feeling alone and waiting…

  6. 5-16-2011

    It is hard. The experience I’ve had in our fellowship has stretched me far beyond anything I’ve experienced. I’ve had to go from an introvert who was quite satisfied with letting other people make the first move to someone who reaches out and risks. I’ve been disappointed and hurt a few times, but God has used that to reveal himself to me more, and to deepen my love for him and for the others in my community.

    I would encourage anyone who is searching for real fellowship to not give up. You never know who God is going to bring across your path and how he is going to use that to create something true. If God does it there will be community, regardless of what else may happen.

  7. 5-16-2011

    By the way… it is difficult to build relationships outside of institutional or traditional church organizations as well. The difference is this: outside of the organization, there are no programs and events to hide behind.

    -Alan

  8. 5-16-2011

    Dan,

    I hope this doesn’t come off as being semantic, but I acutally am alone in feeling alone. It’s true that I’m not the only one, and I know that there are many thousands of others out there, but I’m still alone. I think that knowing that there are many others like me but without the ability to do anything about it is even more frustrating.
    ___________

    My first three churches had great fellowship, despite fitting the “traditional” label. Every Sunday meant an entire day of fellowship (until midnight if you wanted). All that was necessary was to show up. Just that simple. There was not much hard work to do to accomplish this. Everybody simply expected that there would be comminity and there was. You didn’t even have to think about it. Families of all sizes and singles. Church leaders. We got together during the week, too. Yes, there was work in helping others that was hard, but community took nearly no effort. The reason I think is because it existed and I existed in the same place and time.

  9. 5-16-2011

    Thank you brother for this post. I share your experiences. My family and I moved 7 years ago, leaving a very close community of believers. We have been seeking an organic community of believers since. We still attend an institutional church while we are seeking to form a community within our neighborhood through relationships with non believing neighbors.

    It still amazes me that I can feel so alone while sitting in an auditorium with 200+ other people in a program based church. I truly relate to the “Good morning brother, how are you?” type relationships you mention.

  10. 5-16-2011

    Any of you people in the San Francisco/Northern California area?

  11. 5-17-2011

    Steve, I live in Lexington Kentucky.

  12. 5-17-2011

    That’s a good idea. Anyone else want to share their location?

    -Alan

  13. 5-17-2011

    Hi Steve & Alan–I’m living in New Mexico.

  14. 7-26-2011

    Thanks for this Dan, this is very encouraging!

  15. 7-26-2011

    Thank you for this. Made me want to cry. It’s amazing how our desire for meaningful community/relationships is what actually alienated us more. I literally just wrote in my journal before reading this that loneliness (and relationship troubles) tends to stir me to want to be closer to God almost more than anything else I’ve experienced.

    I (we – husband and I) very much feel alone and wander-y right now. Really not sure what the next step is… and I think I’m finally at a point where I’m okay with that. Not sure if that’s apathy or just peace and trust…so that’s scary… but there’s also a lot going on in my life so I’m okay with believing it’s just a season.

  16. 7-26-2011

    Southeast North Carolina

  17. 7-26-2011

    There has been several seasons in my life, including the present, where I am out of a vital community. So thankful for those in the past that lived seeking together. Precious treasured ppl and times. Still feeds my hope.
    I am constantly seeking to be led to others, always meditating on what transitions I and others are going through that will bring one anothering. It can be discouraging and lonely and last longer than I feel like I can stand, but I am confident that it will come, questions about walls that seem to fence me out. Looking for the place, the person, and the situation that the holy spirit leads to…and desperately not wanting to just start something out of my frustration and end up going the wrong path ect. So I sit each day listening and learning what Jesus shows me about gathering and take as much into my heart in hopes that when he brings it about, that I will be able to give and receive in deeper ways than before. Lonely, but trusting he has a purpose for it and will help me to make the best out of it. He says to prophesy breath to dry scattered bones even when we seem to bearly have breath to blow ourselves. Breath is future life of god for the body he created and restores, fits back together healed and standing. He makes deserts blooms and plants them. Wait for his spirit and be confident he is faithful. It could be that aloneness is the seed of compassion for others that you will join with someday.

  18. 8-5-2011

    Dori – great, encouraging words. Thanks! :)

  19. 11-16-2011

    I am glad to hear that I am not alone in feeling alone. Of course, it doesn’t help to make that feeling go away, though. After 9 years at our church I am frustrated. I wonder often, “Am I at fault? Have I done enough to reach out? Should I just keep trying to make those connections?” Then I see someone come in to our small group and they seem to fit right in and I feel like I’m left out in the cold. How do some people mesh so easily? I’ll never understand it.

    I recently was walking through our Preschool department and one of the ladies that used to be in our small group saw me. She said, “Oh! Are you back here? I thought you were still at Midtown Bridge [a church plant in Atlanta]?” I’ve seen this person several times and we have been back at our church for 3 years. *sigh* No one even notices. And no one would notice if we were gone.

  20. 1-14-2013

    Dear Dan,You are definitely not alone in this.For many years I felt convicted for not having a church to go to for fellowship,growth and edification.I come from Egypt,a place where there are hundreds of nominal churches.On reading your post,I’ve come to learn that this seems to be a universal problem,or deficiency.However,I always try to follow other believers on Twitter for fellowship,though”virtual” in essence,and I comfort myself knowing that I will one day see the church in full in heaven,and I will rejoice in seeing my brothers and sisters with whom I shared my faith,even if only through Twitter.I will see them face to face,with our faithful Lord where we’ll spend all eternity together.See you in Heaven dear brother as you cling to this blessed Hope:)

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  1. Not Alone in Feeling Alone – guest post at The Assembling of the Church « The Ekklesia in Southern Maine - [...] out the post, Guest Blogger: Not Alone in Feeling Alone, to read the rest. I really appreciate Alan giving me …

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