The Church Against Loneliness

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How big of a deal is loneliness?

Dr. Vivek H. Murphy, the current Surgeon General, said in the 2023 report “Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation”: “social disconnection was far more common than I had realized.”1 He goes on to state that half of American adults experienced loneliness, which is “is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day, and even greater than that associated with obesity and physical inactivity.”2 In this report, Murphy goes on to call people to awareness and action: “Our individual relationships are an untapped resource—a source of healing hiding in plain sight. They can help us live healthier, more productive, and more fulfilled lives. Answer that phone call from a friend. Make time to share a meal. Listen without the distraction of your phone. Perform an act of service. Express yourself authentically. The keys to human connection are simple, but extraordinarily powerful. Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond.”3

The United States government realizes the reality and effect of loneliness in our society. I’ve personally experienced it during a rough transition year after I moved to a different state. How many of your neighbors are living lonely lives?

If the Surgeon General is calling people to action, what should the global Church be doing to address loneliness? How should the gospel of Christ and the church of the 21st century address “the loneliness epidemic”? If we ignore this question or refuse to do something to answer it, then we will fail to be “the light of the world” and “the salt of the earth.”

How does this connect with the church?

Ironic in this whole conversation is the reality that community—one of the most powerful gifts to the Church of Christ—can become exclusive and thus can drive away unbelievers instead of inviting them in. One of the many comments I heard from visitors to my church back in New York City was, “Wow, you guys are like family.” Or, “This feels like a small family.” Some people who disagreed with us still attended regularly because they wanted the “family feel” they felt. The contrast between a close, loving congregation and lonely people can be sharpened in a large city like New York City. The community outsiders can observe is attractive. However, church communities that become solely inward-focused and inclusive can drive away people, or at the very least, never invite people in.

It may seem easy for a person with healthy, close relationships to scoff at the claims that loneliness seriously affects people’s health. But Jeremy Linneman, lead pastor at Trinity Community Church and writer at The Gospel Coalition, presses into this point, saying: “Loneliness hurts, and the pain compounds into physical sickness, which isn’t cured with medication, but friendship. In other words, both the soft and hard sciences agree: We’re relational beings, designed to connect with one another—not mere individuals but interdependent persons-in-community.”4

Should we be surprised that most sources agree that close community cures loneliness? It sounds just plain ol’ common sense, and a lot like what the Church strives toward. Believers have a responsibility to create spaces where people are seen and heard. This is part of fulfilling the Great Commission—discipleship means walking with people and doing life with them. Jesus called the twelve apostles, not to have a weekly class, but to do life with him for three years.

Are our church congregations too busy trying to keep up with church relationships that we don’t have time to invite neighbors over? What’s the balance between committing our time to the congregation we’re committed to while turning outward and welcoming people who are not a part of our church? One thing that I’ve observed in Lancaster, my current home, is that people are busy with work, family, friends, and church. The many Christians, specifically Anabaptists in Lancaster, that live in this part of the country create the opportunity for many encouraging relationships with other believers. But I’ve done evaluations of my own life, and I’ve seen how easily my time fills with work and church events alone, not to mention throwing in some time with friends outside of church.

But how does this translate into our interactions with lonely neighbors and nationwide statistics?

What can you do? 

The antidote of loneliness is deep relationship(s). In a church congregation, we find this through worshiping together with brothers and sisters, having intentional conversations and discipleship, and sharing the common beliefs of the Christian faith. Friendships, laughter, good food on Friday nights, song nights, service projects—these are all ways we develop those life-giving levels of relationship. But it is difficult to bring unbelievers into some of those methods of community. Many people that you might meet in your neighborhood on a Saturday afternoon are hesitant to come to church with you on a Sunday morning. (I mean, if we’re honest, few of us would go to a big event with a bunch of people from a different culture, especially if the only person we know there is a neighbor we had a twenty-minute conversation with yesterday.)

How can we create the space for deep connections in the lonely world we’re in?

Hospitality can be an effective method for addressing the loneliness epidemic. Most people, especially those who have full-time occupations, enjoy a free, home-cooked meal (a rare gift these days). Sharing a meal while sitting in someone’s home has a way of helping people to rest and relax, and hopefully begin to connect in more real ways. In his book The Common Rule, Justin Whitmel Earley, a lawyer and former missionary to China, suggests forming the habit of daily sharing at least one meal with people. He says: “The daily habit of one meal a day with others is a way of moving the table back to the center of who we are and ordering our day around the kind of people we were created to be: dependent and communal human beings.”5 For singles, divorcees, elderly people, and others, this can be surprisingly difficult. If his premise is based on a daily need for connection, how powerful could regular (even monthly, biweekly, etc.) meals be for those who don’t have those daily meal times with genuine friendships? How actively are we trying to create that space?  

Are we looking people in the eye and acknowledging their humanity when they stand on the corner with a cardboard sign? Are we asking visitors if they have a place to stay or a meal with a family? Are we standing on our steps saying, “Come in! Kick off your shoes”? Are we aware of the needs of immigrants in our communities and helping them get car insurance and taking them to amusement parks? Whatever it may look like for you in your context, welcome people into your community—this will begin to turn the tide of our nation’s loneliness epidemic.


  1. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Health and Human Services. (2023)., 4.
  2. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Health and Human Services. (2023)., 4.
  3. Our Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation: The U.S. Surgeon General’s Advisory on the Healing Effects of Social Connection and Community. Health and Human Services. (2023)., 5.
  4. Linneman, Jeremy. “How Your Church Can Respond to the Loneliness Epidemic.” The Gospel Coalition. (2018).
  5.  Early, Justin Whitmel. The Common Rule: Habits of Purpose for an Age of Distraction. IVP. (2019).
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About the Author:

Kristen Yoder is currently figuring out how to interest high schoolers in English class at Faith Mennonite High School. However, she enjoys the challenge and loves hearing the questions and thoughts that her students bring to class. Her aim in life is to use her passion for language, literature, and cultures to better share the gospel, whether in “the rolling fields” of Lancaster County or in the ethnically diverse blocks of New York City.

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3 thoughts on “The Church Against Loneliness”

  1. It’s great to hear people talking about the loneliness epidemic as it is a growing problem in this generation and a huge opportunity!

  2. Thanks for writing Kristen!
    No matter our season of life we can always connect with someone who needs it. That’s being community. And that’s being the church.


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