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June 09, 2003

Emerging Loneliness

I've been feeling lonely of late - I'm wondering whether it might be something will be effecting others exploring new forms of church?

Its been 3 months since my last Sunday of working at DCCC (my last church). A few people have asked me lately how the transition has been from a fairly sizeable, mainstream type church to Living Room. The transition has been pretty smooth, I'm really enjoying the change for so many reason. However in the past week or so I've begun to notice a change in my emotional state. On a number of occasions in the past two weeks I've found myself feeling very low.

Its taken me a while to be able to put words to my feelings, but after a lot of prayer, some good chats with V and quite a bit of thinking I've realised that one of the main differences between the two ministry roles is that the isolation I now feel. For one of the first times in my life I've been feeling incredibly lonely.

At DCCC and in other positions I have always worked in ministry as a part of a larger team where I had daily interaction with colleagues. We had weekly meetings for prayer, planning and support plus all those inconsequential chats over the photocopier and coffee machine. In addition to that there was a weekly rhythm of meetings, services, bible studies, outreach activities and other programs which thrusts one into relationships with hundreds of people every week.

Living Room is so much different to that. There are only 8 of us in the group, I'm now working from home and our weekly rhythm is a lot less program centred. Whilst I'm enjoying the change from a program based ministry to a much more organic experience of Church, I realised this week that I'm grieving the loss of daily contact.

I guess this is magnified a little by the small numbers of others on a similar journey here in Melbourne. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ministers and pastors in our city, but only a handful that wouldn't stare blankly back at me as I share what we're trying to achieve with Living Room.

Its a strange feeling realising that you're a lonely 31 year old minister.

Anyway, now I know what I'm feeling and why I've started to make some changes in my week. In addition to the amazing people I'm connecting with through this blog, I've also decided to be a lot more intentional with the way I spend my week.

Is this an experience that others are finding also as they explore new forms of Church?

Posted by Darren at June 9, 2003 11:44 PM | TrackBack

Hey Darren - we're a similar but different story. I've transitioned from an "office job", with lots of contact with lots of people, to Sue an I working out of the (very small) condo.

It's a new chapter in your/our life. Your grieving, and that's good. But you'll (probably) never go back to a previous chapter. As you offer more and more... and then walk through the doors that God opens for you, I suspect he burns the map of the route behind you!

Ah, the journey. Peace.

Posted by: Mike at June 10, 2003 02:24 AM

It's amazing how important simple routine can be to our lives. Those little run-ins with people at the vending machines, etc. mean a lot more than we think.

I identify with your loneliness; I have been there many times. But I think you are on a good path, and those paths are often lonely simply because they are new.

Take comfort in V and your congregation. Your efforts will be rewarded.

Posted by: Mark at June 10, 2003 02:46 AM

Seems to the the story of many. I think if the book were written, there would only end up being one chapter because we are all saying the same things, recounting the same story. You are standing on a common ground man - we are all gathered here together. God is sending His Grace for this thing to us all through one another - even if it be via the internet.

Posted by: + Alan at June 10, 2003 03:11 AM

Yep, I'm kinda there right now myself. I've kept myself busy and in contact with others, but it's tough. Especially for people with personalities that drive off of that human contact. Me? I'm thinking of trying to get a job at a coffee shop or something - not for the money, but for the social atmosphere.

Posted by: Steve Lewis at June 10, 2003 03:20 AM

How interesting that the only people who've posted and related to your feelings so far have been men! Perhaps this connects with an earlier blog about men and the Church...

Anyway, yes, when you start thinking differently from the people around you and questioning the things you've always done, it's easy to get isolated - not only through your sudden lack of daily contact with others, but also in an emotional and intellectual sense. Feeling un-understood also makes us feel lonely.

I've tried to encourage our current group of Christians to experiment with fewer 'big' meetings, and to put more energy into the kind of thing you guys are doing. It's ended up with me feeling lonely, as people haven't understood, and to some extent have distanced themselves.

I really feel for you - please don't regret the step you've taken. 'Following Jesus is an adventure beyond all other, and the benefits we receive far outweigh the things we give up and the dreams we leave behind' (Al Hsu) I found this helpful, and hope you may...

Penny M.

Posted by: Penny at June 10, 2003 04:24 AM

I think what you are doing is awesome, and very needed. Funny thing is, I actually left a small church, where I didn't have much contact w/ people my age, to a large church with lots of people my age, because I was feeling isolated and lonely in my old church.

I am a very socialable person, and need contact with others. As your ministry grows you'll those relationships will happen, and that contact will become more and more. That's why I love living in the City (Seattle). I'm actually leaving for Poland for a year, this september, and I know I will have very little contact with people on a daily basis. It's scary, but I know that's why God is sending me there.

Posted by: TravisM at June 10, 2003 09:58 AM

In regard to the loneliness aspect:
I've had to confront my own many times over the years of working alone, and there have been times when solitude (neccssary for thought, ideas, reflection) has tipped over into bad lonliness - which is not that conducive to good writing.
As with everything, it's just striking the right balance, as you suggest.
I'm sure also that there are ministers (and others) across Melbourne who feel that terrible lonliness within the crowd. A sense of displacement, of not being on the right path? Whereas the Living Room, as others have remarked, seems to be 'the good path'...

Posted by: boynton at June 10, 2003 02:45 PM

Thankyou all for your comments. This morning when I logged on and read those already there I actually felt some emotion bubble up to the surface within me as I realised that others could relate to what I'm feeling. I appreciate your words of support, advice and encouragement greatly, both here and on msn/email. I'm very thankful to have stumbled upon blogging over the past few months, its been one of the things that has enabled me to keep on keeping on!

I'm not surprised to see that others have had similar experiences - I guess loneliness is something that all face from time to time whether 'in ministry' (I hate that term) or not. It reminds me that we are created for relationship and inspires me to continue to foster them as much as possible.

thanks again - Darren

Posted by: Darren at June 10, 2003 04:16 PM

Wow Darren, you are grieving a lot of things here.
What can we as your blogging community do to help?

Would you rather feel lonely because of less contact with people, or lonely in a big crowd who don't quite let you fit?

Social interaction dynamics are complex, aren't they? Blog on!

Posted by: Bene Diction at June 11, 2003 08:45 AM

Thanks, Darren, for again surfacing something that hits home. For me loneliness takes several forms: first, the daily routine of working out of my house and the diminished interaction that brings and second the aloneness of doing ministry in a way that many (most) of my Christian friends just don't understand. Your post drew me back to Henri Nouwen's book, "Reaching Out." He talks about the movement from loneliness to solitude: "Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it, we have to protect it and turn it into fruitful solitude." My trap is that I try to drown out my loneliness with activity or social interaction. Nouwen suggests, "By slowly converting our loneliness into a deep solitude, we create that precious space where we can discover the voice telling us about our inner necessity."

Posted by: ronz at June 11, 2003 11:19 AM

I am a 29-year old, lonely pastor. My wife & I left a growing church & community of good friends to move to a small, rural town where we only knew 1 person. We are planning to start a church down the road, but we aren't even that far, yet. Right now, it is just 3 or 4 of us who get together on no regular schedule and don't know at this point if we are going to go forward, or not.

I'm quite involved in the community. And yet, there are so many days that I feel totally alone. It's tough not being surrounded by other followers during the day.

Posted by: kevin at June 11, 2003 11:54 AM

Loneliness. Welcome to the club. Any christian who steps out on a limb is bound to experience it. Anyone who steps away from the 'christian' crowd is bound to find other 'christians' either distancing themselves from you or will simply just forget you exist. Oh how the missionaries of the world must feel in their isolated places around the globe. In unfamiliar territory. Unfamiliar languages, cultures, people. Quite frankly though, we don't really know what loneliness is. We all complain about being lonely probably about as much as we say how busy we are when anyone asks how we've been. In that sense, loneliness is in a great part, our own doing. As 'christians' we fail to really get close to our brothers due to our 'holier than thou' 'christianity' that we've manufactured to impress each other with.

I don't want to sound rude, but I think that if we're feeling lonely and missing people contact, then I think the problem is with us, not others. There are people all around us who don't even know Christ and feel even more alone than we probably ever will. So may I pose a thought. Is our loneliness, possibly God's way of getting our attention to reach out to those who may feel the same way? Who knows... maybe your loneliness is the reason for a divine appointment. Maybe God is wanting to touch someone elses life through your loneliness.

Far too often we focus on our own selfish needs, which is really what this boils down to, and we miss out on ministering to someone else while we instead wait for someone to tend to our own needs.

Every situation has a purpose. The question is, can you see what God is trying to do through it?

Posted by: Regan at June 16, 2003 10:01 PM

It seems so easy to get dragged down when you venture into something new. One moment your were a big star in some big church- now no one wants to know you. I have found I need to search out people, because no one searches out you. I have to question why I even say yes to speaking (Very ocassionally) at other churches- do I really believe I have something to offer- or is it about my ego- or just needing to be accepted.
The loneliness of the long distance runner.

Posted by: Mark Wilkes at June 17, 2003 11:05 AM

loneliness, grief, suffering - why would we think we're immune if the One we follow was not? in the midst of our difficulties, may we meet the Father of All Comfort in the darkness, and there listen to Him whisper to our hearts the strength we need to continue our journey. and then, may we indeed find we have been equipped to share with anyone in any kind of affliction the kind of comfort we ourselves received (2 corinthians 1).

darren, you are blessed to have such a kind yet challenging community surrounding you with grace and truth during this season. hang in there, man. there is a richness that comes from having our slag fired out during such times, and it is worth it ... brad


There is a time clouds block suns rays
while we trudge silent with no name.
And gloom surrounds us while we long
For passions to rekindle flame.

There is a season vines do sleep
Still, life lies dormant deep inside.
And God gives His mysterious will
When brass heavens we think Him hide.

There is a place Christs dove alights
To bring us peace beyond our pain.
Well yet find beauty in the dusk
Kaleidoscope colors beyond gray rain.

� 2000 Brad Sargent

Posted by: brad at June 18, 2003 03:53 PM

i suppose it still comes down to the basics. feeling alone? cling to God. feeling happy? cling to god. feeling nothing? cling to God!

Posted by: tracy at June 20, 2003 12:40 AM

For some reason, there's about a dozen quotes going around in my head right now about loneliness. Stuff like, "Since childhood's hour I have not been as others were." from Poe's Alone.

In fact, that's what I'm going to talk about: Poe's poem "Alone". He says how he could not draw his passion from a common spring, that he'd always been somehow different and this made him feel alone. I suppose a guy suffering from herion addiction, depressed after the death of his child bride would feel like he didn't have a friend in the world. And while "Cling to God" is always a good answer--it's also kinda a "pat answer".

I don't know that there is an answer to feeling alone. It's a feeling and those are the shades of self that we have to deal with.

Posted by: Missy at June 20, 2003 05:09 AM

There are different types of loneliness. I'm not alone during the day. I'm new to the town where I live, but I have already made a number of friends. I am actively involved in a few community organizations. I play golf regularly (2 or 3 times a week) with a group of great guys. My wife & I share a house with another family. There are plenty people in my life & I am keeping quite busy.

But these aren't people I can talk to about the deep stuff. Not all of them & not yet. The sort of loneliness I'm currently suffering is the lack of a close companion - another man who is asking similar questions in life - a brother to share the road with.

Posted by: kevin at June 20, 2003 03:48 PM

yeah ive been feeling lonely lately. but not because I don't have God or anything like that. if anything, it's because of Him that i haven't gone crazy yet. :)

i guess i just miss being with people. i just noticed that ive been by myself too often lately and im not really used to not being with people.

but i thank God that even if i havent seen a lot of my friends lately (family's a given coz i see them everyday), we havent let go of each other and our friendship hasnt diminished because of the lack of communication and presence.

i just hope and pray that ill feel better soon.


Posted by: jax at June 20, 2003 08:24 PM
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