isolation sucks.

There are several inanimate things that really tick me off and I feel like God would be okay with me hating. What really ticks me off is when they start animating because they are things that grow from molehills into mountains and consume those for whom Christ died.

Namely, those things I hate are: addictions of all kinds, sick family system cycles, patterns of entitlement, mental illness and isolation.

That last one may seem out of place to many of you. But some of us play church ball on the field where when people leave, they don’t leave to another church – they just give up on Christianity. I guess you could say that churches like mine, for many people, are the last stop on the spiritual bus line. For many people who can’t even latch on with us – and we have a lot of folks who couldn’t latch on with another faith community – they often find themselves doomed to a life without community, a life without accountability – a life of isolation.

One of the main reasons isolation sucks is because it is a self-perpetuating, ever-worsening cycle. The longer you’re isolated for, the crazier the things you’ll believe, the more your illogical hate for people grows, the more small issues become huge ones. And isolation is an equal opportunity jilter – I’ve seen people stuck in cycles of isolation who were college grads, homeless folks and even couples (the two become one, ever-isolated flesh).

Sadly, many pastors are ill-equipped to throw people a rope to help pull them from isolation because in the Christian world, pastors are some of the most isolated people you can find! Some of it is natural – we emerge as a little nerdy to our high school & college friends or have a conversion that breaks off many of our previously-existing relationships, then we’re plunged into a Seminary experience that, for many, is a study in individualized suffering with a stiff upper lip and finally we’re implanted into communities that already know & love each other – where we’re a hired hand constantly wondering if we’ll say or do something that will come back to haunt us.

And in that sad, isolated world, some of the worst thoughts, worst priorities and worst work habits are formed. Isolation is fed by self-focus, self-justification and self-judgementalism. Isolated people rarely make the kind of followers Jesus trained His disciples to be. Isolation also tends to breed some of the other things I mentioned above – addictions (of all sorts), inaccurate manifestations of small issues and (ultimately) mental illness.

Of course, extroverts and introverts experience isolation differently. As an introvert myself and someone who estimates that Jesus was also an introvert, I’m prone to say things like “It’s my off day and I’ll talk to you tomorrow” or “I’m don’t feel called to help out in this area” a little too often. I’m also prone to make ginormous and elaborate plans in my head without consulting anyone else or allowing anyone else to help. But I have to recognize this sort of ministry pattern goes against the pattern of Jesus, who, though He could do all things perfectly well, enlisted the help of some incapable, frustrating-as-heck guys.

And I’m one of those. And I need authentic community as a leader. So do you.

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