Our desire is not to be just a big church. We want to be a church characterised by genuine and loving relationships. This will happen as we connect with other people through our small groups. (Acts 2:41-47) we see the early church thrive on this principle of togetherness both in public meetings (celebration) and meeting in homes (Life Groups). The church is described as (a) a Body, (b) a Family and (c) an Army. For us to be strong in our faith, to mature as believers, to fulfil God’s purpose on the earth means we need to connect with others spiritually and emotionally and not do life alone. God’s design right from the start was for us to journey with others (Gen 2:18).
We know this to be true YET we can allow certain factors to hinder us from embracing this value fully.
It could be that we have unconsciously bought into the culture of our day that highly promotes individualism. A me-centered living where your own personal interests take precedence over the interest of others. Motivational literature promotes self-reliance, personal independence, self-sufficiency.
Having overcommitted schedules, pursuing ambition or other things and therefore giving little or no time to relationships.
- Temperament Issue
Where a person’s temperament leans towards just tolerating others. Extroverts live by the idea the more people the merrier. Others may have a certain level of tolerance for people in general. Temperaments have weaknesses and strengths. If you are of the temperament that only tolerates others being involved in your life, then you might need to consider making some adjustments and embrace people in your life (invite God’s grace to help you moderate this out).
- Bad Experiences
Having past dealings with people that have been negative. You might have been let down by others, as a result have a fear of trusting others, that’s understandable. You want to distance yourself from others, maybe build walls around your life. God desires to heal your hurts. Open your life to the possibilities of future healthy connections.
If unchecked these factors can contribute to a feeling of isolation and incompleteness.
Christian psychologist Henry Cloud says it well “God created us with a hunger for relationship. Relationship with Him and with our fellow people. The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others”. Our lives are meant to be enriched by other people and vice-versa. There are people in this place who will journey with you, who will prod your spiritual growth, who will stretch you to draw out your potential, who will strengthen you on this journey of life and with whom you too will do likewise. It’s mutual!
There is a powerful word picture that encapsulates doing life with one another:
Eccl 4:9 ..Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10.. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble. 11.. Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12.. A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
This was written in context of ancient day travelling. A person taking a journey (a business trip or family celebration) would need to be wise about how they travelled, as the road they travelled was fraught with dangers, nights would get cold. The wisdom was to travel with companions and not to travel alone without proper support and safety. We too are on a spiritual journey. We cannot go too far without drawing support, strength and safety from others in genuine spiritual connectedness.We need one another:
- To Work With
Two people are better off than one; they can help each other succeed (v9)
We can have increased productivity when we allow ourselves to be partnered with the right people around us. Doing life with others with a common purpose to please God is very fulfilling. Example of LifeGroups doing community projects, makeovers etc. You will find synergy with others; there are good returns when we combine our effort with others. You may discover your spiritual gifts, find some new talents buried within you.
- To Walk With
If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble (v10)
We cannot walk this walk alone. We will encounter crisis, difficult days ahead and fall into discouragement and others can encourage us. When making decisions we can draw on some wisdom from others around us. When you are alone you can talk yourself into anything and regret it afterwards but with others (Prov 24:6) you can have wisdom.
- To Wait & Weep With
Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? (v11)
Ancient day travellers had to keep warm in between long distances, as the nights would get really cold. If travelling alone this would be a challenge, wisdom was that they would seek out other companions already huddled around a fire and check-in with them, so they could keep each other warm, cheer one another up, waiting for the night to be over. This is the language of waiting and sharing one another’s concerns. Life has its fair share of dark nights, cold seasons, tough times. (Maybe an illness, waiting for some medical report, loved one passing away, standing on the edge depression). Others around you are there to warm you up with encouragement, with prayer, fuel your faith when it starts to dip, they camp with you, wait with you, weep with you, giving support, they become your cheerleaders until you come through.
Jesus himself demonstrated the need for companionship when he went to the Garden of Gethsemane. He took Peter, James and John with him to be with him whilst he wrestled within his soul and prayed about what was ahead of Him. Likewise we need each other when we are wrestling with certain things.
- To Watch Out For
A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer (v12)
Journeying with others provides a safety for you and you provide safety for others. Together we can face the enemy. If a sheep was wondering by itself, the wolf will tear it apart but you find a flock of sheep together, the wolf will have to get thru a few before it does damage. Bible tells us there is an enemy that prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking to devour, to seduce us away from God, to undermine our faith.. When disconnected from others, we become easy prey for the enemy, however when we are connected to each other, there is safety, protection.
God desires us to have a strong vertical relationship with him and a strong horizontal relationship with others. Being connected with others will not only cause us to grow emotionally, psychologically, socially and spiritually but it will also reflect God’s love to a world that is already so fragmented and lonely. As God’s spirit helps us form these kinds of genuine relationships in this place, we can draw others to Christ and live beyond ourselves!Sample Discussion Questions
- What are the consequences of not being connected to others?
- Which of the four hindrances, if any, would prevent you from deepening your relationship with others?
- Do you know of anyone right now who is not in community because of the hindrances mentioned? How can we as a group help them overcome it?
- Which aspect of Ecc 4:9-12 speaks to you strongly right now?