Is there anybody else out there like me? Sometimes, it feels like there isn’t, and I wonder if I really am the only one. I know there must be others like me out there, there has to be, but I’m just struggling to find them. Maybe you feel like that too.
This isn’t a new thing for me. Growing up as both a Christian and a Pastor’s kid, it was so easy to feel alone, feeling like no-one else knew what it was I was going through or how I felt, because not everyone was like me. Growing up and trying to thrive in a secular world that actively rejects God, choking out every sign that He’s there, and mocking those who believe He is and follow Him, is hard. Facing such challenges alone without other Christians in the same season of life to spur us on makes it even harder.
Thankfully, my family home life was a strong one. I was blessed to be born into a home with parents who loved and served the Lord, and who nurtured and encouraged me to do the same. Although, I know that not everyone is given that privilege, and feel discouraged even at home where you should feel the most encouraged.
Even with my solid home life, rooted in God and His word, and even though I was surrounded with Christian adults in Church, my mission to find Christian fellowship with young people my age and in my season of life was, more often than not, left unfulfilled. I can count on one hand the amount of solid, godly, close friends I had during my teenage years – and, even then, the majority lived on the other side of the world. As I entered my twenties and moved to a different place, leaving behind the only Christian friend I had at home (who also happens to be my best friend!), the struggle of wanting Christian friends but not finding them became more real than I have ever felt it before. From opposite sides of the Irish sea, my best friend and I both experienced, and still experience today, the difficulty and very real struggle of living for God while feeling like you are the only one WHERE you are, in the SEASON OF LIFE you’re in, and GOING THROUGH the thing you are going through.
Through the wonders of the internet, recently I have had the privilege of connecting with young Christians from all over the world, with each one usually echoing the thought of my own mind that comes with the encouragement and relief when you realise “You too? Oh! I thought I was the only one!” Nothing sets two people on the road to friendship quicker than the words “me too!”
Why then is it so difficult for Christians like ourselves to find like-minded people and befriend them? Surely it should be the most natural thing in the world because we have THE MOST IMPORTANT THING in common – God! Why do so many young Christians feel alone? In churches that are blessed with high numbers of youth, why do some still feel lonely, invisible and unwanted? Misfits in the very place where they should feel the most accepted? Why is it that I can walk into a meeting of sometimes over thirty Christian young people in my age range, and nine times out of ten, leave the same meeting having not one young person speak to me? When did the Church become so anti-social? If Christians can’t even bring themselves to talk to each other, how will we ever reach the unsaved and the lost?
Over this last year, I have gone from Pastor’s daughter to church visitor. After spending my life being “the welcomer”, making sure that every new face that came through our church’s doors felt welcomed, included, and heard, I’ve now spent a year experiencing church from the other side. Over this last year, I’ve visited a handful of churches as a visitor, hoping that “this might be the one!” And, most of the time, I’ve been left feeling discouraged and disappointed, and feeling more alone than when I first went in as my hopes of finally finding Christian support and friendship were dashed once again. I wonder if you’ve experienced something similar? If you have, I’d like to share with you the same assurance that my Dad has shared with me countless times before – “the problem is NOT you!”
From my year of trying to find a new Church to call home, a few saddening observations have come to my attention. How far we have come from the model of Church laid out for us in the book of Acts:
- “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer” (Acts 1:14)
- “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayers” (Acts 2:42)
- “And all who believed were together and had everything in common” (Acts 2:44)
- “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32)
Churches today (not every church, but a lot of them) have become:
- INSULAR, failing to look outward
- OBSESSED and DRIVEN by numbers, sacrificing quality and depth of fellowship for the quantity of bodies in their sanctuaries
- UNWELCOMING to anyone who might change the make-up of the church they have come to know and love, and even to the committed Christ-one who should feel the MOST at home in a Church
- SUPERFICIAL, as long as we “look” welcoming, it doesn’t matter if we really are or not
- UNINTERESTED when you don’t tick their personal boxes, as they look past you when you’re trying to have a conversation with them, seeking out the next person they’d rather talk to
- THOUGHTLESS, giving no thought to others
- SELF-FOCUSED, centred on ourselves instead of the God we serve
Why is it that youth leaders, youth pastors, and worship leaders, who stand UPFRONT on a platform fail to BE upfront with people in their own congregations, whether new or not, marking themselves as untouchable and unavailable, “too good to talk to the likes of you”? When did youth leaders stop trying to LEAD BY EXAMPLE, and get alongside new faces, or lonely ones? If even these, who are meant to be leading, won’t, then who else will? Some Pastors are even unaware that such goes on in the churches they pastor, unaware that their youth leaders are failing to hit the mark.
Yet, even in a youth group or church full of people, it is still possible to feel alone. And this feeling is not exclusive to those under the age of thirty. It is hugely possible that people from a range of ages, backgrounds and experiences feel this way too. Sadly, the fact that a person goes to Church offers no guarantee that that person will be the godly friend you’re looking for. The lines between the sacred and the secular have become blurred. Professing Christians can be found in the tattoo parlour on Friday, the nightclub or bar on Saturday, and then the Church on Sunday (assuming they got out of bed on time!). Professing Christians flaunt their bodies in minimal, tight-fitting, revealing clothing from inside the Church doors. Professing Christians attend church meetings and socials that could easily be mistaken for a rave or a pop concert. Professing Christians can be heard speaking garbage and spouting filth one minute, and a prayer the next. WHEN and HOW did this become acceptable?
For a Christ-one seeking to exhibit the Fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23), living a God honouring life in clean speech, modest clothing, and pure living, even in a church full of faces, you can still feel so alone. Feeling like there is no-one else out there fighting to live according to godly values and Biblical teaching. You feel like the only one!
If you have identified with any of this, I want to let you know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE! There are more of us out there. We may be hard to find, but WE ARE THERE! And it’s time for us to reclaim the term “Christian Fellowship”. It’s time for us to get back to the fellowship God intended us to have. The model of Church outlined for us throughout the New Testament. It’s time for youth leaders to step up! It’s time for church leaders to step up! It’s time for young men and women of God to step up! It’s time for us to reach out and stand together! It’s time for solidarity! It’s time for change! It is time for us to start feeling a little less alone!
So, I ask…is there anybody out there? Will you join me?