By Janis Backing
CHICAGO — Christians who say “Jesus is all you need” may be shocked at first to hear what author and pastor Dustin Willis has to say on the subject: “It’s far from the truth of the scriptures,” he says.
While Willis certainly agrees that Jesus alone is all we need for salvation, “I find throughout the Bible that the Christian life is designed to be lived with other believers,” adds the author of Life in Community: Joining Together to Display the Gospel (Moody Publishers).
A successful church planter and former pastor, now coordinator of the Send Network, Willis learned firsthand the irreplaceable role that community plays in the life of a believer. Ironically, it was during a season of incredible church growth that he felt as though no one knew or even cared about him.
“Each week I’d preach three services in a row to capacity crowds, and then get in my car and aimlessly drive around, wondering why I felt so alone,” Willis recalls. “I was connected to thousands of people, yet I struggled with an overwhelming sense of separation.”
It was through community that the pockets of emptiness began to fill, he adds.
We live in the most connected time in world history, constantly linked through Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Pinterest and Instagram. Yet we are as isolated as we have ever been. Recent studies from Duke University and the US Census suggest that we are in the midst of the most dramatic and progressive slide toward disconnection in history:
- 27.2 million people live alone.
- More people say they feel alone than at any other time.
- 25 percent say they have no one they can turn to as a confidant.
- More people link their depression to loneliness.
- The number of “socially isolated” Americans has doubled since 1985.
Churches that think they’re filling the void may be fooling themselves, the author notes: “At times they can do the opposite. We will not truly experience the beauty of being the body by reducing biblical community to a church gathering on Sundays.”
Life in Community is a call to reclaim scripture’s stunning vision of gospel-centered community. Piercing and practical, the book includes a six-week group study that will help readers discover authentic connection with others who genuinely care and share in life’s common struggles, and spread the gospel to a world starved for unpretentious relationships.
Willis concludes, “Community is an incredible gift God has given us to experience. With God’s gracious pursuit and some intentionality, we can recover it in all its fullness.”