The Early Church
It’s easy to “hide” in a big church. It’s easy to just come and go – always leaving the same as you were when you came. That’s probably the one danger to attending a big church – there is greater chance of being alone and staying the same even though there are lots of people and ministries going on around you. I think that’s the reason why Jesus and the early church modeled something different for us.
I wonder if the early church worried about numbers and growth percentages. The Book of Acts tells us that as the people loved one another the way Jesus loved them, people were drawn to the Kingdom. “They added to their number daily”, according to Luke (a very careful and thorough author). It’s interesting that Luke’s observation is followed by details about what they were doing in community, and how they were connecting with each other, but he doesn’t record a specific measurement. The methodical, thorough, specific, doctor Luke who certainly understood math and science didn’t include a measurement. He didn’t say “they added 5% to their number daily” or “on average they grew by 50 people per day”. This either means the number was too big to count, or that it just wasn’t important. Luke included the important details – they met together, they helped each other, they connected with each other.
When You Really Need A Friend
I recently listened as a friend talked about how being connected to people in the body ofChrist, not just going to church, had been the source of God’s rich provision and blessing during a very difficult time. The greatest thing about it was that it was genuine. She truly had been blessed more than she could have imagined because she was connected to community with other believers. Beyond being blessed with material things, she was blessed with encouragement, love, and support while she and her family walked through a difficult trial. There was no certainty of the outcome at all – in fact, the circumstances were dire. But godly friends surrounded, supported, and loved her. Because of them, she was able to stand strong in that trial and pull through.
Community Of The Paralytic
There are quite a few stories in the Bible about having and building close relationships with followers of Christ. One of those stories is about a paralytic whose friends lowered him down through a thatched roof so he could bypass the crowd to reach Jesus. I may be taking some liberties here by considering them “friends” – they could have simply been passers-by – but I think there had to be something deeper than serendipity for them to go to all that trouble (and potential disaster if they fell off the roof!). I believe the paralyzed man had connection. He had community. He had friends that came to help figuratively and literally lift him up. Because of his friends, the paralytic received more than a chance glimpse of Jesus, he came face to face with the Son of God! This kind of relationship – the kind that risks discomfort, difficulty, emotional hurt, potential loss of life and limb – these kinds of relationships don’t just happen. They take time, intentionality, and courage.
But Finding Friends Is Hard!
Having friends can mean the difference between life and death – literally. Some people seem to make friends so easily, almost as if it’s natural for them to make connections and be in community. Others (like me) find it a little more involved, requiring more effort and intentionality. So how do we engage with intentionality? How do we connect to other people in the body of Christ to develop close relationships? We know what it takes: time, commitment, and intentionality. Lasting friendships with people who will encourage and support us are never the result of coincidence. Assuming that intimate friends are a natural consequence of church attendance is comparable to a belief in osmosis of information from a book to your sleeping brain. Building friendships with people who will go more than the extra mile, like the paralytic’s friends, requires the intentionality of planning and connecting on purpose, and (perhaps for some of us introverts) a measure of courage to get outside our comfort zones. We have to avoid the traps of comparison, fear, and shame and instead take that first step to make a connection and realize that we are not in fact the only one with “baggage” or fears. It might mean having to put ourselves out there a few different times, but it will be worth it!
I Still Need Help
Maybe you’re still wondering how to make this work. You want to go for it, and you see the value in having more than just one close friend or in having friendships with other believers, but you are still unsure how to get started.
Good news! God, the one who created us knows exactly what we need! He supplies wisdom and grace whenever we need help. Maybe you need help clearing your schedule so you can make time to meet for coffee. Maybe you need help coming up with something to say. God is the One who made us for connectedness. He has the best ideas and the best plans for connecting. Let’s ask Him for His help. And let’s not stop at just asking, but let’s step out bravely and take action. Attend a few connection group meetings. Start with something simple like the women’s or men’s group. Or maybe the group you volunteer with would be willing to start meeting for coffee before church next Sunday. Or you could ask the parent of your child’s friend if they want to get together at the park so the kids can play and the adults can just hang out. These are only a few examples, but I bet God has a lot more great ideas for you! Just ask Him. You won’t ever regret having a few more close friends.