Atomization refers to the trend of people disconnecting and living apart from one another and apart from the social and community groups they once regularly attended. It is a breakdown of connections and relationships on a community level, and some have noted it is particularly strong in America. Sociologist Robert Putnam drew attention to this phenomenon in 1995 in his essay "Bowling Alone" and captured the basic image: where people once used to seek regular community and do things together in groups, many people prefer now to do everything on their own terms. Putnam also identified some of the reasons this is harming America's social fabric, weakening both the productivity of the community and the ability of people to form relationships. He concluded it resulted in less civic engagement, and also in less trust between average people. Here's a longer explanation from a recent perspective.
Not what a man is in himself as a Christian, his spirituality and piety, constitutes the basis of our community. What determines our brotherhood is what that man is by reason of Christ. Our community with one another consists solely in what Christ has done to both of us. This is true not merely at the beginning, as though in the course of time something else were to be added to our community; it remains so for all the future and to all eternity. I have community with others and I shall continue to have it only through Jesus Christ. The more genuine and the deeper our community becomes, the more will everything else between us recede, the more clearly and purely will Jesus Christ and his work become the one and only thing that is vital between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Christ we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity. (Life Together, p. 26).
That is why Bonhoeffer states: "He who loves his dream of a community more that the Christian community itself becomes a destroyer of the latter, even though his personal intentions may be ever so honest and earnest and sacrificial." (Id. p. 27). We cannot make the community to fit our expectations. We must receive it. This necessarily requires humbling ourselves, because we are not in control and we must accept what God creates. I will note that this is not to be confused with simply accepting anything we are given by other men and women, for if they are also engaged in setting up their own idea of community, it may be equally detrimental. But it also means we have no excuse to just stiff-arm what we receive from others in community solely because we don't happen to like it or prefer it.
So how do we tell the difference? One of the reasons Bonhoeffer's book Life Together is so engaging and powerful is that it gives us a detailed breakdown and discussion of the aspects of community that come necessarily from our being united through Christ. These are the things natural to a genuine Christian community, the basic vital signs of the spiritual life. Bonhoeffer shows why these things are necessary to our life in Christ and how they nourish and maintain it. If the dynamics of your Christian community fulfill these purposes and serve to bring people closer to God and closer together in Christ, then they may be just what we need. That does not mean they will always be comfortable. Detecting the difference between the two - community created by God versus community dictated by other people - may take careful discernment. But either way, there is no question that the real community must be received. We cannot set the terms.
Instead, we love people the way the Scriptures teach, and we accept them for Christ's sake, and then we take the community that God develops out of that. Bonhoeffer gives us a peaceful picture of what kind of growth in grace and joy is available to us if we will humble ourselves and just receive what God is giving. Consider how liberating and relieving it is to not be ruled by a pressure to fix and tinker with the community in every place where it isn't developing according to your expectations. Simply receiving is a gracious privilege:
Christian community is like the Christian's sanctification. It is a gift of God which we cannot claim. Only God knows the real state of our fellowship, of our sanctification. What may appear weak and trifling to us may be great and glorious to God. Just as the Christian should not be constantly feeling his spiritual pulse, so, too, the Christian community has not been given to us by God for us to be constantly taking its temperature. The more thankfully we daily receive what is given to us, the more surely and steadily will fellowship increase and grow from day to day as God pleases.
(Life Together, p. 30)