Earlier this week I wrote about some of the reasons it is so difficult to build community in Baton Rouge. In that, I wrote about four relationships that can, at times, take priority over the local church: (1) their immediate and extended family, (2) the friends they grew up with, (3) their old church friends (but not at their current local church), and (4) their kids’ school relationships.
One friend (who moved here as a young married having now grown up here) commented on the original post, saying, “People are very friendly and welcoming, but it oftentimes didn’t move past surface level.”
Is that wrong? How deep can the relationships in our churches here in Baton Rouge realistically be? Do we need to be in a constant state of gaining new relationships and sustaining them to a level of depth (which, over time, leads to dozens and dozens of friendships)? Larry Osborne (pastor in California) actually wrote about this idea in one of his books, Sticky Church. In that, he opines (yes, I said “opines”),
I think of people like Legos. We all have a limited number of connectors. Introverts have a few. Some extroverts have dozens. But either way, once they’re full, they’re full. And when that happens, we tend to be friendly but to not connect. It’s what happens when you move to a new town and are excited by everyone’s friendliness, only to be discouraged three months later that you haven’t connected with anyone. (p. 79)
Osborne uses this concept of connectedness not to chastise churches for being hard to get into but to simply explain why it is the way that it is—over time, people’s ability to keep and sustain relationships hits some type of temperament-dependent capacity. To a degree, I think this is true. At some point in time, we run out of an ability to add on new and deep relationships.
I’m not suggesting (though I have in the past with some folks and have thus learned how dumb it was) that we abolish all non-church friendships. However, if our local church family is important, how do we give priority to our local church?