Though they may feel like it, these people are not alone. This loss of community has in some ways become our collective experience of American life. This relational disconnection was first identified and popularized in the year 2000 in Robert Putnam’s work Bowling Alone. Simply put, he proposed that America was losing its sense of community, or its social capital — the reality that we are a part of “the whole,” and that we participate in small but significant ways to the greater good.
In many ways, a significant work of the church in our context is the re-establishment of the social fabric of our culture. I think one of the most significant barriers to movement in the West is the complete disintegration of social fabric with the onset of our hyper-individualistic, consumer-driven culture.
Regardless of your strategy (Jon Tyson’s seems to be missional community driven, as is ours), there is much work to be done in tying the threads of relationships back together through the power of the gospel. In a disintegrated social culture, we must adopt a posture of building bridges relationally into existing “tribes” outside the church on the small scale, and we must leverage our large corporate environments toward building relational ties among believers who are equally as devoid of relationships often times.
In a culture that is rapidly losing touch with other people, the attractional nature of biblical community and corporate worship is visible and palatable, and can serve as a powerful declaration of the gospel. I pray that we do not share counterfeit expressions, but authentic, gospel-centered community in our churches.