So what’s the solution?
Loneliness is an epidemic.
We all encounter it, but few of us like to admit it. “Admitting you’re lonely feels very much like admitting you’re a loser,” according to Boston Globe writer Billy Baker. Each of us would likely say that we’d love to have a Band of Brothers, guys we can count on and do life with.
But circumstances just often get in the way of having the time and energy to put into real relationships with other guys, especially as we get older, begin careers, get married, and have families and real responsibilities.
Why does it matter?
“It is not good for man to be alone.” Genesis 2:18
Evidence suggests that loneliness can negatively affect men’s health and well-being almost as much as smoking. The Boston Globe reported in 2017 that those who experience some loneliness or “even simply living on their own see their risk of premature death rise 26-32 percent.” It’s an eye-opening and startling assertion – and this was before the mass-market isolation of our current COVID crisis.
It’s not just a health issue, it is a healthy family issue.
“Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sounds judgment.” Proverbs 18:1
According to the Barna Journal we’ve been studying, 69% of men under 35 feel overwhelmed. “Young Christian men are significantly more likely to say that they have frequently or occasionally felt lonely within the last month, compared to older men.”
And there is a correlation between not having a friend or confidant and becoming overwhelmed. These men report that their relationships with other men directly affect their satisfaction in key relationships such as their marriage and families.
We were created for community.
It’s also a healthy church issue.
“By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:35
“When one man stands alone, he doesn’t have much impact,” says Joe Tanner, Pastor For Missions Mobilization & Small Groups at Parkway Baptist Church in Moseley, VA. For over two decades, Joe has lived out what healthy bonds among men mean to the Kingdom. He has maintained friendships with guys he served with while planting a church in Virginia over 20 years ago. They kept in contact as Joe and his family ministered in Central Asia for 7 years and then reconnected back in Virginia in his current role.
Joe points to the example of Paul as a picture of what healthy relationships are based on, how they can sustain over time and multiple continents, and why that is key to impacting the work of the Lord.
In a time when travel was often perilous and no technology existed to stay in touch, Paul built comradery with many friends and fellow servants of Christ who shared in his mission. They grew together building the church.
Men bond best while serving shoulder to shoulder, focused on a common goal.
The goal, the mission we share today is impacting culture for God’s glory and plans. Even as men gather together to study the Word, our goal is not to get fat on the knowledge, but to change, grow, and implement what we learn.
As a new believer in Christ, Joe was once a self-proclaimed “Lone Ranger Christian.” But there is no such thing as a healthy lone Christian. “We need the body,” he explains. “It is through unity that we have the greatest opportunity to impact culture as a church.”
So how do we aim for these targets in real-life scenarios? Next week we will talk about solutions for engaging in impactful relationships with other guys.
If you haven’t tuned in yet, check out this week’s podcast episode as we also discuss how The Noble Man Prioritizes Relationships with Pastor Leroy Hill of the historic Ebenezer Baptist Church in Portsmouth, VA.