The issue of people, as in Christians, being disconnected seems to be a hot one.
Barna, in his book Revolution, has caused many to worry that he was encouraging people to disconnect from "the church" or from meaningful community altogether.
I recently received an email from someone who is seeking consistent community with others but finds that many of her young friends just want to get together from time to time over coffee or a meal to talk about the Lord. She finds this to be insufficient in meeting her own needs for spiritual community.
Andrew Jones, in his exploration of current trends, suggests that in many western, post-christian countries "about half or more than half of the believers DO NOT attend a church service on Sunday." The fact is, the majority of these people are probably not connecting with what we might call a consistent spiritual community. Jones says, "Their most significant communal rhythms happen through a number of separate events and occasions in homes, coffee shops, clubs, festivals, etc. And in the past 7 years, the internet has become another of those places where spiritual gifts are shared and the accountability of relationship is maintained despite physical distance."
I think there is clearly a trend toward disconnection and dis-affiliation. I think it would be very easy to react to this and say, "It's important to be connected to one another... in a real way... in a committed way. That's part of being in the body of Christ. So... find a spiritual community to be part of, i.e. a house church network, or something!"
However... that's not where I am coming from. Personally, I think the disconnect that is taking place is important and helpful. It's part of the positive chaos that is a prerequisite to a needed re-organizing of structures, networks, and healthy connectivity. We have been, for so long, connected to structures, programs, and hierarchies in unhealthy ways that there will be, and (I think) must be, a swing toward a radical disconnect in order to find the type of connectivity that supports, heals, nurtures, and renews. This "swing toward the disconnect" does not frighten me.
Now, don't get me wrong. I, personally, need to be connected. That's just me. I have been through periods of disconnect and I need connection. I need to continually find healthy, supportive ways to be connected to spiritual community and family. I do not need to be under someone's positional "spiritual authority." However, I do need to have mentors and fathers in my life whom I am relationally connected to and listening to. I do not need to attend a weekly event or "service." However, I do need to belong to a spiritual community that I participate in life and mission with on a regular basis. I do not need to be preached at, or given a ministry assignment, or told how to live my life. However, I do need spiritual brothers and sisters who know me, whom I can be open with, and who are walking beside me, truly, in my journey.
In short, I personally need healthy, spiritual (truly spiritual) connectedness.
The PROBLEM IS... how to get there! This is no easy task. The answer is not to simply say: join a house church, or start a simple church yourself, or whatever, whatever! We can do this and still find ourselves in the type of connections that we ran from in the beginning. So, it's just not that simple. Granted, I think it's a good thing to experiment with a variety of ways to support healthy missional-community lifestyles. Granted, I personally am enjoying tinkering with simple/relational church networks structures to try to provide a framework for the type of healhty connectedness we are looking for. BUT, the fact is, we are not there yet. We are just scratching the surface of finding ways to support healthy spiritual life and community. It is all very experimental and we are all in a learning process.
And that is why I suggest that the disconnection, overall, is a good thing. We need to fully disengage from everything that is not supporting healthy spiritual/community life before we can find new ways to engage. We are still in this process of finding new ways. We will continue to learn and explore together. But it is those who have, or are, disengaging (disconnecting) that are most able to be creative, to try new things, and to be part of the renewal of the body of Christ that I believe is taking place. We have so far to go in discovering the support structures that will facilitate the ongoing movement of God's Spirit today.
So... will the disconnection that is taking place result in the oblivion of the church if we don't do something about it? Probably not. Probably the church is in a healthy process that God himself is in charge of. I think we can go with it and trust the process to him.