Updated: Jan 27
Community is the anecdote to the consequences of isolation.
Western civilization is built upon the concepts of liberty, freedom, and individuality. As Americans we hold to the premise that we have the God-given right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness (i.e., material possessions). Yet, our pursuit of individual achievement has left many to navigate the downturns of life by themselves. Pulling yourself up by your bootstraps is admirable, but when you don’t have a pair of boots, it is unachievable.
The disintegration of social life has continued to accelerate. In 1950, 9 percent of American adults lived alone. In 2012, that number rose to 28 percent, and in some instances 40 percent. We are more independent and, consequently, more alone. We have social networks and “friends” who are not really our friends. In times of crisis, our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram networks are unreliable communities to depend on.
What is driving our increasing singleness? The reasons vary from voluntary to involuntary. These so-called “singletons” may be starting their adult lives, prefer to live alone, or are divorced or widowed. The technological age in which we live permits us to literally not have to go outside. We can conduct every area of our lives—business, banking, entertainment, shopping, healthcare, education, and fitness—without ever having to leave the comforts of our homes.
However, the multiplying force of technology can never replace the impact other humans have in our lives.
The Importance of Force Multiplication
American political columnist and commentator, Mark Shields, stated: “There is always strength in numbers. The more individuals or organizations that you can rally to your cause, the better.” We are social creatures, and social media will never be an adequate substitute for personal community. People provide in-person strength and support. In short, they are force multipliers.
The purpose of force multiplication is to “increase the effective power that you have.” In social movements throughout history, humanity has recognized the effectiveness of people power. The internet is a testament to the effect people can have through shares, retweets, and online petitions. But none of these digital platforms can help us when we are isolated in the enclaves of our personal castles. We still need in-person community. In fact, the author of Hebrews exhorts us to not isolate ourselves from gathering in person (Heb. 10:25).
The Benefits of Community
Scripture speaks to us about the benefits of in-person community:
Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when there is not another to lift him up. Furthermore, if two lie down together they keep warm, but how can one be warm alone? And if one can overpower him who is alone, two can resist him. A cord of three strands is not quickly torn apart. (Eccl. 4:9-12)
King Solomon highlights three benefits of living life in community.
1. Community Provides Encouragement. As we pursue God’s purpose for our lives, we will sometimes encounter tasks that are more difficult than we anticipated. As a result, we can become tired in the process of working toward that purpose, or we can find ourselves unable to move forward. It is during those moments when we have fallen that our community can come to our castles and be present to encourage us to keep pressing and to keep trying. They can lift us from our depression or debilitated state and set us back on the path to God’s best for our life. But if no one has access to us when we are at our lowest, who will we have to help us back to our feet? Who will even know that we have fallen and can’t get up? So, community is the anecdote for the chronic illness of individuality.
2. Community Provides Survival. God created us to live in community. Adam was given Eve, and from them God intended for us to be a perpetually expanding community. The concept of “singleton” is not God’s ideal, because singleness leaves us in a state of vulnerability. When we are alone, there are any number of exposures that we are susceptible to: sickness, hunger, and loneliness, to name a few. But when we have someone who is with us to help us survive those crises in life, we can endure them because we have a supportive community to rally around us. On the other hand, when we are sick and alone, hungry and alone, and lonely and alone, we are left to suffer the consequences of our independence. Community is not about survival of the fittest, but survival of the fellowship.
3. Community Provides Defense. In any battle, the army with the most soldiers are the presumptive favorite. Certainly, there are other factors that must be considered, but the general rule of thumb is that numbers provide an advantage. A “singleton” will have a harder time warding off the attack of someone stronger than her than the person who has one or more friends to come to her aid. This is Solomon’s point: Why would we want to live life isolated when we can live life insulated? Two is great, and more is greater. The more intertwined and interconnected we are in relationship, the harder it is to unbind us and isolate us. But the person who fights on his own will soon learn that it helps to have help. So, community serves as a bulwark against bigger threats.
Don’t Die from Loneliness
Individual achievement is to be applauded, and we all agree that there are times when we need some “alone” time. But we must never lose sight of the bigger picture that community is our calling. We have heard stories of people that have “died from loneliness.” It may have been in reference to a spouse that recently preceded them in death, but there are other ways to die from loneliness: We can fall, freeze, or forfeit because we did not have a companion to help us in our time of need.
Rev. Isaac Hayes is the president of Healing of the Soul Ministries. He is also an Assistant Pastor at the Apostolic Church of God in Chicago, IL, and a doctoral student at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, IL. Follow Rev. Hayes on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @RevIsaacHayes.
 PBS News Hour, “Why More Americans Are Living Alone,” March 27, 2012, https://www.pbs.org/newshour/show/why-more-americans-are-living-alone.  Ibid.  BrainyQuote, Accessed October 13, 2021, https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/mark_shields_226003.  Dave Frees, “’Business Force Multipliers’ for More in Business & Your Life?,” Success Technologies Inc., accessed October 18, 2021, https://www.successtechnologies.com/2016/06/business-force-multipliers-for-more-in-business-your-life/.