“If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” - 1 Corinthians 12
Christian fellowship was once a delightful by-product of a Christian age. The core or central work of the Church was her worship services and doctrinal line-holding. You know, at a bare minimum, keeping people out of hell! And for a time the Church enjoyed her status as the moral authority for the West, which was an added bonus for being the majority worldview. Less “important” aspects of church life, like fellowship, were enjoyed for decades, but eventually were taken for granted and considered optional as the world offered better options and church participation declined.
However, fellowship will and must become more important in the future. In a future where we are already catching glimpses of possible food shortages, currency carnage, and legal challenges, Christians will need to build community to support one another. Or, perhaps none of those traumas will come to pass and having more and better friends will be a nice by-product of intentional community building.
The Fall and Rise of Fellowship
Church fellowship, as experienced in the past with sewing circles, bowling leagues, post-worship picnics, pot-lucks dinners, domino nights, etc. etc., were a staple of American life. But as we began to “bowl alone” and live in private castles, the need and desire for fellowship plummeted. Some Christians maintained their Sunday worship habit and sincerely believed traditional doctrines. Many continued to give generously to support the work of the Church. But fellowship became harder and harder to pull off, as so many other events competed for time in their schedules. Churches became places where strangers gathered to worship a common God. But they didn’t share a common life.
In an increasingly polarized world where very basic fundamentals are falling apart, where Christian values can not only not be assumed, but may actually prove to be illegal, the value of fellowship has greatly increased. Christians already are, or will soon find themselves, in the minority. And those in the minority will have to defend each other, support each other, and build communities to outlast difficult times.
What are some of the difficulties the future might bring for Christians and what are some solutions?
The Food Supply
Some difficulties will be shared by everyone and will not be unique to Christians. For example, food shortages and inflation look to be real concerns and not just temporary problems. Some foods may become scarce. Churches would be wise to set aside food staples and water, store them in a way that they will keep, and rotate them on occasion with fresh supplies.
This does not mean buying Jim Bakker’s 5-gallon buckets of food, but simply storing food so that a food bank is available for those in need. Churches may want to supply other goods like propane, etc. But some supplies of food to help the poor at a minimum makes sense.
Or a church might consider a community garden or having chickens on its campus. Each of these presents difficulties in the way of tending, labor, not attracting varmints, etc. But learning some basic skills of sustainable food production also seems wise. If churches are not home to these kinds of activities, they could facilitate networks among members who have chickens or gardens at home.
Christians especially, may face increasing legal challenges. The current narratives regarding gender and sexuality in particular do not line up with traditional Christian teaching. It is not hard to imagine pastors finding their way to jail for “hate speech”, speaking against future pandemic shut downs, or tweeting Bible verses. All of these have already taken place in the West. Lawyers who are members of Churches might bone up now on these cases and churches may even set up a line-item in the budget now to cover legal costs.
There can be no denying that the United States is in financial peril. Money is printed to cover shortages, which creates inflation, which drives up interest rates, which creates financial hardship, which lead to more shortages and bank failures, etc. The process has repeated itself for decades. At some point - and it will be called an “overnight” failure - this process will meet the brick wall of the laws of economics. Financial hardship will come. We may need to offer housing or rides or, again, help with food to those in need. We should be familiar with resources to help those looking for work. Again, perhaps a line-item created now to assist members who will face hardship.
The Epidemic of Loneliness
Or what about loneliness? Apparently, we are living through an epidemic of loneliness. Ironically, as church attendance goes down, loneliness rates increase. Who could have guessed? While the basic potluck may not seem like much, for someone who is lonely, it could make all the difference in the world.
The AI Hellscape
I can also imagine a time when the prevalence of AI could lead to enormous embarrassment. How hard will it be to take a Christian’s or a pastor’s social media profile and use the voices and images found there to create hyper-realistic compromising material? I suspect many of us will be subject to AI blackmail in the future. What is real vs. what is fake will be hard to distinguish, and even if it is proven fake, it may still result in tremendous shame. In those moments, you will need real friends who know you well and who will support you when the bizarro world of tomorrow rears its head.
So I guess what I’m saying is that now and going forward, the potluck is less optional and more mandatory. Christians need to get back to being close-knit communities right now, in preparation for some significant changes in the next decade. I’m not saying go full-on “prepper,” per se, but at least know the names of most folks in the parish. You will likely need something they have to offer soon.
Photo Credit:stpeterofgrimes. org