We’ve all been wounded by community gone astray—families, teachers, authority figures not following God’s will caused damage—and unless we heal, inadvertently we do the same. In fact, I’d wager that most human problems are relational at the core. That’s why Jesus’ method of restoring the world focused most of His attention on a small group of 12. Because the only way to restore what’s been lost and damaged is through restored relationship—first with God, then with others. I don’t think we can fully follow Jesus without being connected and committed to a smaller group within His church.
Jesus utilized large group teaching, medium-sized missional sending, but focused most of His energy developing a small group of men within these larger contexts. Jesus bet his whole ministry on 12. He only had 3.5 years, yet he felt this was the best use of his time–why? Because the Gospel is not primarily propositional but relational. If the Gospel doesn’t transfer life-to-life, developing people who develop people, we’re missing the heart of the matter. Here’s why…
- You can’t love God if you won’t love people (1 John 4:20-21)
Jesus came to reconnect people to the Source of love, so He can guide us to love one another as He loves us (John 15:12). But we will never learn to do that unless we enter into that private, refrigerator rights space where we know and are known.
- You can’t live out the “one anothers” without close proximity (Heb. 10:24-25)
I’m convinced that we cannot fully follow Christ if we don’t get deeply involved in each other’s lives because that’s the only way to live out all the “one another” passages of scripture describing the church.
- You can’t heal or help others heal without confessional community (James 5:16)
We all have wounds—no one comes out unscathed. We fear being fully known because we fear being judged and rejected, or found out as an imposter, or unable to live up to expectations, or exposed as less than we want people to believe—these are all relational wounds. God’s plan to heal those relational wounds comes from living in confessional relationship. We find freedom and healing that allows us to be wounded healers of others.
But herein lies the Catch 22 struggle: You can’t fully follow Christ and heal without getting close to people, but getting close to people can easily poke at our unhealed wounds—so we remain alone and unknown and unloved and unable to truly love others—because it’s safe.
C.S. Lewis wrote, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal…lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
This is where Church leaders (staff and volunteers) must go first—speed of the leader, speed of the team. We must learn to lean into God’s grace offered through Christ, so we can lead others to do the same. This alone can set us free to start this virtuous cycle of relational healing Jesus set in motion. We begin to experience Gods love and it pushes out fear: We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in his love. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we live like Jesus here in this world. Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of punishment, and this shows that we have not fully experienced his perfect love. We love each otherbecause he loved us first (1 John 4:16-19).
This is what’s so wonderful that I’ve personally experienced. When you understand what God’s done for us through Christ—that He’s forgiven us and restored us and we don’t need to fear punishment by God. When you really grasp what that means, then you don’t need to fear anyone or anything! That’s when you are truly living in Grace—when God’s love for you drives out all your fear of what others might or might not think of you—there’s no fear, because the only One whose opinion really matters knows it all and loves you anyway. And He’s for you, not against you!
That frees us up to move closer to others, and let ourselves know and be known, because we have nothing to fear. And when you let yourself be known, you find freedom and true spiritual friendship. Are you living in His Grace and Love so that it pushes out all fear of moving closer to people? If not, what’s keeping you stuck? If you say you trust in God’s Grace—lean in and take a risk–move toward others. That’s where the Gospel comes alive.