This past weekend our church family had a retreat of sorts called Camp Bacon. Camp Bacon exists to bring together students grades 3-12 from our church and and our local community together to focus on developing relationships with each other and with God.

And we eat enormous amounts of bacon.

Thinking off the top of my head this is my 21st retreat that I have participated in and they all function in the same manner and seem to have the same goal in mind: fostering authentic community. I had a discussion with one of the volunteers this weekend and we were talking about people who develop unhealthy relationships with others based on a sexual desire. We both came to the conclusion that they were desiring community but what they got was not authentic.

Johnny Lee in a famous country song perhaps said it best:

I was lookin’ for love in all the wrong places
Lookin’ for love in too many faces
Searchin’ their eyes, lookin’ for traces
Of what I’m dreamin’ of
Hopin’ to find a friend and a lover
I’ll bless the day I discover,
Another heart- lookin’ for love.

What a decade of retreats have taught me is that churches, couples, friends and individuals all want authentic relationships where the goal of community is fostered. We serve a relational God who cares about his creation and wants people to know him in a very personal way.
church and loneliness cartoon by nakedpastor david hayward
Look around you and it is clear to see that we are relational beings. The advent of social media has brought us closer to each other than ever before yet it seems we have never been more lonely. One blogger put it well:
At times social media can create a dangerous illusion of being connected. We pay attention to numbers on Facebook and Twitter, and often fool ourselves into thinking that we’ve satisfied that need to form relationships with others. In my experience, people who I know who feel the most lonely, usually have a wide and active set of “friends” on various social networks, such as Facebook. They’re the ones who have hundreds of people liking and commenting on their photos, yet they feel that it’s not enough. Maybe technology has distracted us from the age-old truths of what is most important — true friends whom we can be ourselves in front of, rather than our carefully scripted online persona — soul mates who enjoy each other’s presence so much that shared silent companionship gives them both a warm feeling of connection.
So I want to start a series of posts discussing a beginner’s guide to authentic community. It is a core belief of mine that one of the driving forces behind the decline in our church’s membership is a failure to practice, promote and teach authentic community. We go to a place and hardly know people. Sure we know their names and some basic information but we have no clue who they really are. So here are some ideas of posts I want to do…
  • Defining authentic community.
  • An old testament snapshot of authentic community.
  • A new testament snapshot of authentic community.
  • What authentic community does not look like for the present church.
  • Some practices to foster authentic community.

I hope these topics spurn discussion and interest among those reading. If you have any ideas share them in the comment section.