While knocking on doors with a Kentucky Baptist pastor, we met a man in his late fifties who I’ll call Ben. Ben was friendly, appeared healthy, and lived alone with his small dog who greeted us at the door. Ben is a Christian who was once an active member in one of our Kentucky Baptist churches.
Ben talked with us about his grown children and grandchildren who he didn’t see very often. He didn’t blame them for the lack of communication as they were busy raising young children of their own.
We stood in front of his home and talked for a good while about not much of anything, but my visitation partner and I both felt compelled to stay and listen to him. After a while, we finished the conversation, invited Ben to attend church, and then prayed for him. My pastor friend and I walked away with the same impression: that man was lonely. He just needed someone to talk to.
According to an article by Laura Geggal, “More than 9 million people in the United Kingdom report that they often or always feel lonely.” This reality prompted the UK to appoint a Minister of Loneliness.
A 2019 staff article in The Week states, “Nearly half of all Americans say they are lonely.” The article lists singleness, childlessness, partisan politics and a few other factors as contributors to the feeling of being alone.
As followers of Jesus, we have the answer to loneliness. Jesus came to seek and to save lost people resulting in their reconciliation to their Heavenly Father and to one another. The Gospel is the solution to widespread loneliness. The Gospel changes us and compels us to move toward others instead of away from them.
Now that we know that 1 in 2 of our fellow Americans are lonely, what can believers do to make a difference?
1. Meet your neighbors: As believers, we must be intentional to get to know our neighbors. When we see them going to the mailbox, or cutting their lawn, or coming home from work, a quick, ‘Hello, how are you doing’ can go a long way. This happened to me just the other day and led to a great conversation with a neighbor.
2. Look for opportunities to talk with those around you: There are people you see every day who desperately need community—the lady behind the counter, the elderly man sitting on the park bench, and even the young mother corralling her kids through the store. Pray and ask God to help you meet the people in your community and then watch how God causes your paths to cross.
3. Offer to help as needed: When those around us realize that we care about them, they are more likely to discuss their challenges with us. As we get to know them better, we can pray for them and help them understand how God cares for them and the difficulties they are facing. We may be given an open door for a Gospel conversation.
God has uniquely positioned each Christian to be a Gospel missionary in his or her community. Your outreach to your own neighbors will make a difference in their lives. Identifying the loneliness your neighbors and community members are facing can be the starting point of an intentional and fruitful gospel ministry.