Pastors Stress Need for Community as Studies Report Rise of Loneliness

Las Vegas, Washington, D.C., and Denver were named America’s loneliest cities in a recent study, but pastors in those cities are not surprised. They say the transient nature of modern life, along with selfishness and technology contribute to people feeling alone despite being surrounded by people.

Various reports indicate a rise in the number of people who report feeling lonely, and in Great Britain earlier this year Prime Minister Theresa May appointed a minister for loneliness. CV Outreach, an organization urging churches to use technology to reach people far from God, conducted the study identifying American cities where people are most likely to feel lonely.

Vance Pitman, pastor of Hope Church in Las Vegas, cited a combination of issues that could have led to “Sin City” topping the list released in February. “Over 90 percent of Las Vegans do not have a relationship with Jesus, and this leaves them with a spiritual emptiness which often leads to real loneliness,” Pitman told Baptist Press in written comments.

More than 1 million people have moved to Las Vegas in the past decade, leaving people to start over building community and meaningful relationships, he said. Also, Las Vegas is an extremely fast-paced city. “The rhythm of Las Vegas life makes building meaningful relationships challenging, and it really only happens with real intentionality,” Pitman said.

Dave Howeth, a North American Mission Board Send City missionary in Denver, also cited a vast influx of people as a reason for feelings of loneliness. Seventy percent of the people who move to Denver are domestic immigrants, he said, referring to people who move from other states.

“We are a place of escape and adventure with all of the skiing, hiking, biking, mountains, etc.,” Howeth told BP in written comments. “Our No. 1 idol is the outdoors. … People move here to get away from family to live the life, but they find it costs more than they ever imagined and so they work more than planned and they are lonely because they don’t have family or relationships.”

Skylar Anderson, pastor of Cypress Community Church in Denver, told of meeting a millennial who had moved to Denver from the South and didn’t really know anyone. He was “living in a really cool neighborhood, surrounded by people” — thousands of people within about a mile of him — but he “basically knew nobody and wasn’t even sure how to connect with them.”

Anderson told the man that if he ever just wanted to watch Netflix on somebody else’s couch, he could come over to his house. “For him, that was the Gospel connection,” Anderson told BP. “He had never had that offer, somebody just saying, ‘Hey, why don’t you just come to my place and watch Netflix?'”

A couple Anderson encountered had lived in Denver about six months and were talking about their work. She was in the marijuana industry and he was in the tech industry, Anderson noted, and they said, “Everyone is really nice, but it’s really hard to make friends.”

“People don’t necessarily say they’re really lonely, but the experience is, ‘I’m surrounded by people and yet I don’t feel like anybody knows me, nobody cares what’s going on in my life, nobody would know if I moved back home,’ which is what a lot of people do after two or three years,” Anderson said.

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Source: Baptist Press