Sadly, it is epidemic.
According to the HSRA (Health Services and Resource Administration), 2 in 5 Americans report that they feel their social relationships are not meaningful. And almost half of seniors report being lonely.
Many in society, but teenagers especially, because of "screens" are alone for massive amounts of time, and because they have dozens of "friends" and hundreds of "followers" online, they do not realize it until the need for closeness suddenly is upon them. I can't site the study, but I will never forget when I heard that men over 30 years old average zero (yes, ZERO) intimate friendships.
It is dangerous, too.
Studies show that loneliness is extremely hazardous to your emotional and physical health. According to the Health Services and Resource Administration, loneliness causes more pre-mature deaths than smoking 15 cigarettes a day, and more than obesity. It is not too extreme to say that loneliness kills.
The relationship between loneliness and depression (each one can lead to the other, by the way) has been long established, and a poll of our church family, presented last week, indicated that out of 250 respondents, almost one third of our own church family struggle with depression.
So, church, lack of closeness is epidemic and dangerous.
The good news is that the offer of true friendships reduce the risk of developing certain diseases, depression, and even premature death EXPONENTIALLY.
Now get this, because of this, health companies are hiring people to begin "togetherness initiatives" in order to save money.
It is an indictment on Christ's church everywhere that insurance companies are finding the motivation to do what we know is our job to do. It is all through our Bible! Our ancient wisdom says, "pity the one who falls and has no one to help them up." Paul says to "carry each others burdens" as THE way to fulfill the law of Christ. James says to "confess your sins to each other so that you may be healed." This, and so much more, is why the Hebrew author challenges us to "not give up meeting together, as so many are in the habit of doing." These are not about merely "going to church," but vulnerable and close friendships among us and through us.
Our elders have long held up the expectation that every member of this church be an active participant in a small group. I hope you can see it is a loving, healthy, shepherding, and (sometimes) life-saving expectation.
And so, it is time to reGroup. May God give us all Christ, and the community of Christ. And may we offer it to the world for their good and God's glory.