A recent report from the U.S. Surgeon General highlights how our world is going through a loneliness epidemic, and it is a genuine health problem. In this article, we’ll explore the issues and explain how discipleship can help solve the loneliness epidemic.
Here are a few highlights:
- Before COVID, about half of U.S. adults reported measurable levels of loneliness. This number has undoubtedly risen since the pandemic.
- Loneliness is not just an emotional problem – it also has real physical consequences, including
- 29% increased risk of heart disease
- 32% increased risk of stroke
- 50% increased risk of developing dementia for older adults
- “The mortality impact of being socially disconnected is similar to that caused by smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day”
- Although we are more connected than ever through things like social media, loneliness is about the quality of those connections.
- While we may attempt to replace in-person relationships with online interactions, we must still experience in-person relationships.
- “People with strong perceptions of community belongingness are 2.6 times more likely to report good or excellent health than people with a low sense of belongingness.”
The fact that we need good relationships should not be a surprise to us, but if you think you are alone in your loneliness then you should know, you’re not alone. Loneliness is a huge problem all over the world.
How can we combat the loneliness epidemic? We believe that discipleship is one of the most powerful tools in curing this widespread problem. Let’s explore the reasons why:
1) Discipleship is Life-on-Life
Given the name of our ministry, it should be no surprise that we strongly believe discipleship should be a life-on-life experience. Discipleship is more than a simple Bible study or community group, it should be a group of people who are dedicated to sharing their lives with each other.
What does this mean? It means you commit to attending on a regular basis so that you have ongoing in-person relationships. It means you commit to being open and transparent about what is really going on in your life. It means you listen and encourage the other people in your group. It means you share what Jesus has done and is doing in your life, and that you pray constantly for the people in your group.
Life-on-life discipleship is not simply limited to group time either, you can and should invest in the lives of others. Meeting them where they are and inviting them into your life as well. Spending quality time together will help end our epidemic of loneliness and isolation.
We recommend groups stay small, knowing that a handful of strong and consistent, high quality connections is more beneficial than a large group of superficial relationships. With life-on-life discipleship, you imitate the method of Jesus, going deep with a few to invest and equip them to become disciple makers themselves.
2) Discipleship Equips you to Love Others
Discipleship groups should provide you with a few strong relationships in the group, but they should also equip you to love others outside the group and build better relationships where you live, work, and play.
For instance, one of our experienced discipleship group leaders loves to hear from the wives of the men in his groups. While they may initially be concerned that their husband will be gone for a couple hours every week, they notice and appreciate the change in their husbands as God works through the discipleship group to shape their hearts.
In the same way, discipleship can also help people be more effective at their work. Several studies have shown that “Immersion in local community-based activities such as volunteering significantly increases the likelihood of unemployed individuals becoming employed.” Having a group where you can share openly about work and be encouraged to glorify God in whatever you do will help anyone be more effective in their vocation.
And of course, discipleship teaches and equips us to be a light in our communities. We can love our neighbor, be a positive teammate, and invite others into strong social connections when we have a good foundation in our own discipleship groups. When we love others well, we’re helping to solve the loneliness epidemic in our own lives, and the lives of others.
3) Discipleship is Missional
The Journey is more than just a curriculum – it is used by churches around the world and is often chosen because it is Biblical, practical, holistic, and missional.
While many Bible studies are content to identify nice things they find in the Bible, the Journey pushes people to be missional. It provides simple yet effective ways to share the gospel and demonstrate Jesus’ love to those around us. The Journey also bakes in time for encouraging accountability, giving us even more reason to be missional.
Remember, there is a loneliness epidemic out there! Your neighbors, co-workers, and community members could all be feeling alone. Discipleship equips us and encourages us to get out there and love them well, and introduce them to the ultimate cure for loneliness: a relationship with Jesus.
4) Discipleship Pushes you Closer to Jesus
The ultimate cure for the loneliness epidemic is the relationship we were created for. When mankind sinned in Genesis 3, the curse of sin caused brokenness in our relationships with each other. More importantly, that sin caused a rift between us and God.
The good news of the Gospel, however, is that despite our sin Jesus came into the world and made a way that we could be restored to God. His sacrifice paid for our sins, and if we repent and believe in Him we can be saved and restored (Romans 6:23).
Discipleship constantly reminds us of the truth of the gospel. Not only that, but it fosters a stronger relationship and love for Jesus. As we get closer to Him, seeking Him through the truth of his Word, through accountability and encouraging relationships, and through prayer we will move closer to Jesus.
Where human relationships may fail, Jesus never does. He is faithful – he gave his life for you! Discipleship helps remind us that we don’t have to be lonely – we can have a personal relationship with the Creator himself.
Let’s Help End the Loneliness Epidemic
The loneliness epidemic is real and it is only growing. It is present in workplaces, neighborhoods, your local gym, and even at your church. We have become a busy people, moving from place to place and thing to thing without going deep with anyone.
Discipleship helps us slow down and build strong relationships over time. These relationships push us to love others well, to be more missional, and to grow closer with Jesus.
If you would like to learn more about how life-on-life discipleship can help transform the lives of the people in your church, then checkout our discipleship training. Life on Life discipleship training involves an intentional, highly relational process. We want to help end the loneliness epidemic, and that includes the way we provide training!