The Three Temptations of Isolation

Isolation is often very attractive, and it is on the rise with no signs of slowing down. Over 20 years ago, Robert Putnam wrote a landmark article that became a book about the rise of isolation in America. He called the book Bowling Alone because his research revealed that bowling leagues and other opportunities for connection and relationships were declining. Yet bowling was not declining. In fact, the number of bowlers increased over a twenty-year period of time while the number of people in bowling leagues greatly decreased. Instead of bowling in community, people were bowling alone. Putnam wisely warned that the move toward isolation would ultimately hurt people and communities.

This was before restaurant booths filled with people staring at their phones instead of connecting with each other and before binge watching on Netflix. The move to isolation is only easier and easier, and thus more common. Yet it remains destructive. Isolation pulls us away from encouragement and from accountability.

Leaders are the ones who encourage community, who want their teams to work together well and support and encourage one another. Ministry leaders preach on the importance of biblical community. Yet leaders, the ones rightly warning against isolation, can easily be lured into isolation for three reasons:

1. No new burdens

Leading in a world that is filled with struggles and brokenness is burdensome, so there is a constant temptation to run away from it all. When overwhelmed with the burdens of today, avoiding people gives the perception that no more burdens are added.

2. No new wounds

We can easily reason that being alone can help us avoid pain and pressure and people that cause both. Though community is what heals, we can reason that isolation will hurt less.

3. No more betrayal

The longer you lead, the more likely you will be betrayed by someone you trust. When betrayed and hurting, being vulnerable in community feels dangerous and being alone feels safe.

Burdens, wounds, and betrayal are real and they make community and vulnerability risky. We will be hurt. We will be let down. Community is risky. But isolation is more so. Community is where we find encouragement and are protected from our hearts being hardened by sin’s deceit (Hebrews 3:13).


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Eric Geiger

Eric Geiger serves as the Vice President of the Church Resource Division at LifeWay Christian Resources. Eric received his doctorate in leadership and church ministry from Southern Seminary. He is also a teaching pastor and a frequent speaker and consultant on church mission and strategy. Eric authored or co-authored several books including the best selling church leadership book, Simple Church. Eric is married to Kaye, and they have two daughters: Eden and Evie. During his free time, Eric enjoys dating his wife, playing with his daughters, and shooting basketball.

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Recent Comments
If someone wants entertainment they're going to the wrong place. Church is not a place for entertainment...or in my opinion a barrage of coffee and donuts. Why are churches today bringing the world INTO them? Then there's the thing with children...age appropriate??? These little guys can pick stuff up in service. Besides Jesus said Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. Mt. 19:14.
 
— Laurie
 
I love the intentionality here as well as the challenge to look at the data. That's missing so many times. I would like to offer a contrarian's take. Church members and regular attenders have so many ways to get information: Announcements, bulletins, social channels, relationships, and email being among the options. But brand new people are likely going to check out the website and that's it. It might be wiser for churches with limited time and resources to focus their website almost exclusively to guests. This group of people isn't looking for a calendar of events but wants to know about regular programs. They probably aren't interested in watching all of the messages but instead may want to preview one of the services. For the times we need church members to go to websites (sign up for camp, join a group, etc), we're probably better off designing and promoting a specific page rather than cluttering up the homepage.
 
— Michael Lukaszewski (@mlukaszewski)
 
A great question! Unfortunately, the Church Unique Kit is no longer available in print form. We are working on revising it and updating it into an online experience, but that project is at least six months out. An alternative is to come to an upcoming certification class. There is one May 15-18 in Houston, and October 23-26 in Atlanta.
 
— VRcurator
 

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