Breaking the Isolation Epidemic

According to a recent study at the Barna Group, (Trends 2018) some of us are suffering in isolation more than others. If you’re feeling alone and struggling to have steady friendships, it appears you are part of a trend that’s growing in the church. Christian men and Christian Pastors are especially prone to suffer through their days without support. According to Barna, 1 in 5 are in it alone, doing much of life by themselves.

Americans Are Friendly But Lonely
T
he majority of adults has anywhere between two and five close friends (62%), but one in five regularly or often feels lonely. Those who report the highest levels of loneliness are single, male, young and likely earning a lower-income. (Barna Group – Trends ’18 Study

According to Barna’s latest study, women have less trouble forming and keeping friendships but men struggle. Young men not in college scored the highest on the loneliness scale, but church attenders overall scored badly on their diversity of friends and relationships.

You can see how valuable and essential the local church becomes in addressing these issues. There are a lot of ministries that focus on single parents, moms, and youth… but what about the adult – unmarried – man?  Not many churches have a dedicated ministry to guys who are unmarried, and not in college.

There are others in our services who don’t fit in. Some churches are only republican. Some are only democratic. Some are only independent. All are tempted to engage only those they look like and talk like. This should not be.

The church risks becoming a haven for  -like – attracts- like – kind – of place. Where diversity of thought, appearance, or opinion isn’t all that , so people who don’t feel like they will fit – don’t even try.

To be fair, it is much easier to only engage those we understand, and we avoid those who take an extra effort. But it’s not the model Christ demonstrated for us. He went to Samaria. He chose to forgive the woman caught in adultery, and to invest three years of his life and privacy to the tempestuous disciples who smelled of fish and sweat. 

The community of Faith needs to see the bigger picture of our mission with Christ. We’re not trying to live as clones of each other, avoiding the odd and inscrutable among us, instead we need to appreciate and value the unique and eccentric we encounter. These are the very human people we read about in scripture, these are the precious lives that God has plans to use.

The gospel of Jesus is bigger than us. Bigger than our comfort zones and life experiences, the Spirit of God transcend generations and politics, and expands beyond grey haired married couples to spill out to our singles and young adults without a hesitation or hiccup. 

Let’s all agree to stop next Sunday at church and look around the room. Ask God to direct your attention to someone who made the service, but doesn’t quite fit in. Go sit with them. Make them feel wanted and welcome. Buy them lunch – or meet them later for coffee. Invest your best into these isolated and lonely, they are tomorrow’s leaders and Gods children.

Oh… and stop thinking you’re a Christian “republican” or a Christian “democrat”… God doesn’t poll red or blue. We’re followers of Christ first and last, the US American – Political game should not be allowed to divide or isolate those of us with passionate and differing opinions.

God is bigger than our national election, don’t allow the powers that be to manipulate your emotions into rejecting one group for the sake of another. 

The cross of Christ broke down all our barriers and split the walls that kept us isolated by social and educational standing, race, politics, or economic status.  He calls us all to be His disciples. Our allegiance is to Him first and foremost. The rest can sort itself out in the knowledge of His presence. 

Our services this week shouldn’t be a time to divide over regional policies or national politics, but a time to unite around the truth of the gospel and the promise of peace. He is all about the reconciliation of all things back to Him, back to the way they were always intended to be. Shouldn’t we strive for the same?

Our children will follow in our steps… let’s be careful where we walk.

Blessings,

Pastor B.

Scripture Reference from BibleGateway.com: Ephesians 2: 17 And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

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Parenting through an eating disorder

*Statistics say that 3 out of 4 women struggle with an unhealthy relationship with food.

Ever ask yourself if that might be you? Or your daughter… wife, best friend?

Might be time to consider expanding your circle of trust and risk sharing that struggle. What about taking the step to engage with someone or something that has helped thousands get free? It takes courage and humility to admit our need for help, and it takes the support of someone who walked before us.

Let me introduce a friend and expert on the subject, Constance Rhodes – she’s the founder and CEO of “Finding Balance” and she can help.  Her help saved my daughter’s life six years ago and it might do the same  for you or someone you know. Someone who’s fighting in despair and feels all alone and about to give up.

Eating disorders and poor self-esteem related to body image are arguably the most common and painful struggle any parent with teens will ever face. 

I’ve done it. It’s rough. Seriously dark stuff to wrestle with by yourself.  No one wants to over-react, to provoke things further, but if you’re noticing a pattern… a trend, then its very likely real.

You may wonder if this important enough to risk the anger and resentment? It is.

First step... admit there might be a problem. 

Second… ask for help. 

Third… listen to the Brilliantly Brave Parenting podcast and reach out to Finding Balance and get some honest and tested advice. 

With all my heart…

Pastor Brad.

*FindingBalance interview – BBP Podcast.

When you hate your job, but love your life.

We all want to find fulfilment.

When we were younger, we just pressed ahead with our life. We weren’t thinking too far, just focused on the ‘here and now’,  pushing to climb whatever ladder was in front of us. We worked hard to do our best, we wanted more for our lives and a piece of the ‘American Dream”.  School, career, family, church. Each option with its own unique set of struggles and issues to overcome, but oddly they are the same. 

We work and work to gain the next rung of whatever ladder we find ourselves on, pulling up one more level, determined to get further and higher than the others.

Somewhere along the way we notice this isn’t making me very happy. It may be sooner for some and later for others, but in each of our lives we notice.

The faith we’ve kept offers some vague promises about life being ‘full’ and having ‘joy’ in the journey, but it’s a bit hazy when we slow down our ladder climbing enough to think it through. 

We can get a bit surly inside, irritated by the growing dissatisfaction of our progress. The goals we set in our youth shimmer in the distance, unmet. We ponder with regret some of the decisions and compromises we’ve made. We wonder what could have been…

It’s about at this point that I begin to hear comments about how much people hate their jobs. It creeps out at first, bitter and seeping out from the inside. Working late, going in early, struggling to keep up… it’s clear why we run out of gas. Our work doesn’t always fulfill us. It may pay the bills but it doesn’t bring us lasting contentment or satisfaction.

Last night in church LifeGroup we discussed the idea of “vocational calling“. The concept of having a specific purpose and set of unique gifts that God himself granted us. It’s in this idea of a divine purpose that we can find some ‘light’ for this dark and disturbing tunnel we may find ourselves in.

For the Christian, our purpose and our calling go hand in hand. But, our occupations are often unrelated. So, when we work at the local supermarket but long to teach Sunday school… we begin to understand the dichotomy of loving our life but hating our job. Totally understandable. 

God wired us to be in ‘vocational’ ministry for our entire life. We will naturally have a ‘bent’ or leaning towards our calling. No matter where we live or work, we’ll find ourselves drawn to certain causes or people. We will always want to ‘teach’ others if we’re called to be a ‘teacher’. It doesn’t matter if we find work as a fireman or a judge, nothing we ‘do’ will provide as much satisfaction or ‘fulfilment’ as what we were created to ‘be’. Understanding that concept is a huge step forward!

Love this quote from Frederick Buechner “the place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” 

So, let’s discover what God created you to ‘be’ and don’t be confused that what you ‘do’ is the same thing as what your called to “be”. The distance between our paycheck and our hearts can be frustrating.  Remember, St. Paul was a tentmaker by day, Apostle by night. I’m confident it wasn’t ‘fulfilling’ for him to work as a common laborer, but it provided the path for his ‘calling’ to be realized. For some courageous few, we get to do both at the same time, but most of us have to work jobs that are not our vocations.

For those who are sick of the disappointments and pointless sacrifices made at work, it may be worth the effort to dig a bit and find what your ‘calling’ or ‘vocation’ really is.

Be careful on google, there are tons of people and groups who claim to have the magic fulfilment formula, but most are selling you something. God has been whispering to us all along who He is and what we were created to be.

Here is one resource I would recommend.

God bless! Pastor B.

Source Notation. “How to understand your vocational calling

In your opinion….

We all have opinions. We all have experiences… and we need your help!

Would you be so kind as to take time to share yours. I’m posting a TGA (Tween Gospel Alliance) survey today for parents. We need about 90 seconds?

Colour of Life Photography

For your trouble… we want to reward you! Two lucky folks will win $50 from Chik-Fil-A / or Hobby Lobby.

This blog is affiliated with the TGA, and we value your opinions and ideas, this information will be used to help create new resources for ministry and parenting. Your helping us…. help you 🙂

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/JZQYYFG

Thank YOU!

Blessings,

Pastor B.