Here in Albany, we have at least four coffee shops that I know of and a new one getting ready to open. Personally, I spend about 10 hours a week in these places doing emailing and writing. Where do you think the idea, “With Your Latte” was born?
I do some of my work at coffee shops because people here have formed a community. No one is looking at who is wearing what, race, political parties, or age. Everyone feels welcome. Starbucks now boasts over 11,000 stores – and it’s not just about coffee. They are successful because they have created an environment where people can connect and form a community. Remember the television show, “Cheers?” “<em>Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name.” </em>Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are also known as “Communities.”<!–more–>
Last year, my good friend Carl and I were riding motorcycles in Florida. Having never ridden a Harley Davidson or visited one of their dealerships, I was shocked at what I found. It was a community! I was welcomed as a friend. No one knew my name but they asked for it! Some were watching television together, shopping together, while others shot a game of pool. The soft drinks and popcorn were free, as were the hot dogs and hamburgers that where hitting the grill as we were leaving. Conversations of business, road trips, and concerts were everywhere. I met attorneys, policeman, mortgage brokers, and preachers, all there for that sense of belonging and connection that only comes from community.
The need for community is one of the main reasons that cult leaders are so effective at leading people astray. They build communities that are co-beneficial, intimate, and reciprocal. The people are accepting and vulnerable to one another. The populace cares for one another and considers the needs of others more than their own.
Community, as I just defined it, doesn’t exist much anymore. It was the fundamental reason for gathering in the early church – but much of that has given way to “attending.”
It is in our God-given nature to connect and to be drawn into a community. They are our support and place of love, acceptance, and security. Small churches and neighborhoods where families looked out for each other have all but vanished. Admittedly, there are many folks who have faced such emotional pain from a relationship that they refuse to attempt to be a part of any community. It’s often reflected in their family dynamics. I encourage those people to find help getting past those injuries and join a community.
To all I say, “We need community.” Find a civic club or a volunteer organization somewhere. Stop merely attending church and learn to connect with a group where you can truly relate to the lives of others.