Yesterday I went bowling alone, and I enjoyed it immensely. I was in Evansville, Indiana, with my son Dru and his friend Christian who were in a bouldering competition. I had a couple hours to kill before the comp actually started, so I puttered around Barnes & Noble and then went bowling. Around the fourth frame of the third game, I thought about the book, Bowling Alone, by Robert Putnam, which describes the decline of community in America since 1950. But I was really enjoying my time bowling alone! And then I thought of Jesus and how he often got away from the crowds to be in solitude.

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
– Luke 5:16

It may be surprising to hear a community junkie like me say this, but I believe that being in community and being in solitude are equally vital for our spiritual and emotional health. They form a symbiotic relationship. As the church today we are doing a great job promoting community, but a poor job promoting solitude.

In Life Together, Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community . . . Let him who is not in community beware of being alone . . . Each by itself has profound pitfalls and perils. One who wants to fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation, and despair.

Father, help me to live a balanced life in both community and solitude. Help me to enjoy times alone with you and times together in community. Help me to be more Christ-like … to not fear being alone, but to often seek time away from the crowds and the groups to be alone with you.

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Michael Mack has been involved in small group ministry as a pastor, writer, trainer, and speaker for more than 25 years. He founded in 1995 and started Small Group Leadership in 2012. He became the 12th editor of Christian Standard magazine in 2017 and continues to speak in churches about small groups, discipleship, and leadership. He lives in Pewee Valley, Kentucky (just outside Louisville), with his wife Heidi. They have four young adult children. Michael enjoys mountain and road biking with a group of friends. See the "About Michael Mack" page under About Us for more about him.

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