I find that when I'm speaking, to any kind of audience, there's one word that consistently produces a response. People just go silent-they hold their breath. The word is loneliness.
You might not think that loneliness is such a big problem. Most of us are surrounded by other people everywhere we go. But the extreme individualism of our age has made people focus more and more on their atomized single self: defining themselves as the unique person separate from everyone else.
Our forebears defined themselves by what they produced. Now people define themselves by what they consume. And this undermines our sense of effectiveness in the world. No matter how much you define yourself as this important, significant individual, there's a feeling that nothing you do is going to make any difference.
This is even harder for Christians. We have the mandate to go out and bring the gospel to the world. And yet it often seems like nobody's listening. So we are tempted to try things we shouldn't get into, because we think nobody will find out. That's the path to disintegration-when we are so isolated, lonely, and ineffective that we start to think our lives don't matter.
------------------Frederica Matthewes-Greene for the Christianity Today Vision Project