" Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting
together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near "
Hebrews 10:24–25 NLT
If given the choice between losing friends or losing hair, which would most people pick? That’s a hard one. Most people would probably be tempted to say they would rather lose friends. Face it—really, is there anything better than a good hair day? On the other hand, some guys would be perfectly happy being bald! Hunting or fishing buddy over hair? Seems like a no- brainer.
Of course, this is all being a bit lighthearted. But honestly, it would be rare to meet a joy-filled, enthusiastic person who is disconnected and lacking deep relationships. The truth is, all people are wired for close, intimate relationships, first with God and then with family. As followers of Jesus, believers have been redeemed to be children of God and to belong to a family of brothers and sisters in Christ.
God created His church for family. It is in a Christian’s DNA. Genesis teaches that God created Adam and Eve and gave the man and woman the command to “be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it” (Genesis 1:28 NLT). In other words, when God created the first man and woman, He had more than two in mind. God had a vision of an earthly family that would be fruitful relationally, grow numerically, and live purposefully in order to bring about God’s kingdom on the earth.
God made Adam and Eve for His own pleasure and glory. Into bodies formed from the dust of the earth, He breathed the breath of life. Adam and Eve became not only living, physical beings, but spiritual ones connected to the Creator. In addition to food and water for bodily nutrition, God Himself, the author of life, became the source and sustenance for Adam and Eve’s spirits (Genesis 2:7).
So it is for all humanity. This means that just as plants and trees must remain rooted to the ground to sustain life, human beings must abide in God as the root source to sustain spiritual life. If they fail to do that, they may be alive physically but are dead spiritually. Living apart from God is simply not an option for believers, and depending on anything or anyone else as the source for life will yield deadly consequences.
Adam and Eve were not each other’s source; God was the source. However, as part of God’s plan, He calls believers to grow in relationship with others and become the family He envisioned. At their core, people are relational beings who crave connectedness, intimacy, and to be known. Family, God’s way, is people doing life together in open, honest, and vulnerable relationships. Imagine a family where shaming, blaming, and hiding had no place. This is the kind of relationship that Adam and Eve enjoyed before sin entered the world.
“Now the man and his wife were both naked, but they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25 NLT).
In the beautiful, magnificent garden that God created, everything was good, except for one thing: Adam was alone (Genesis 2:18). The detailed account of creation records that God placed a need in Adam that God was unwilling to meet. Adam and God had a relationship, and Adam was surrounded with animals of every kind. Yet God described Adam as a man who was alone. Loneliness is not an indicator that a person is broken, and feeling lonely is not a sin. Much like hunger pangs make people aware of their need for food, loneliness is a feeling that brings awareness to the need for relationships.
It is so easy in this day and age to be in a crowd, completely surrounded, yet feel utterly alone. It is possible to be acquainted with many people, yet be doing life deeply with none. In fact, believers can even have a relationship with God, sit in a church pew on Sundays, but still be going through life virtually alone. Sitting in pews with other people at best provides casual, safe relationships; however, gathering in circles gives the opportunity to dialogue with others and share from the heart. When God sees a disconnected life out of fellowship with others, His response is, “It is not good.”
Human beings were created for so much more than cordial greetings, surface-level conversations, and casual relationships. When there is a sense of something missing in relationships at church or life in general, it usually stems from a yearning deep within the human core for deeper connections. First and foremost, God made people for intimacy with Him, and secondly, for intimate relationships with others. Simply put, human beings were created for family. God works in the lives of believers through deep relationships that lead to fruitfulness, multiplication, and satisfaction. For the Christian who is disconnected, God still has so much more!
It is all about personal growth and transformation. The world needs Christians—real Christians, not imaginary, “put your best foot forward” social-media-highlight-reel kinds of believers. However, because of an innate yearning to be liked and accepted, most people tend to naturally lean toward impressing others and end up becoming make-believe people with superficial relationships. The problem is, those kinds of relationships never produce growth and transformation.
Believers have been created anew in Jesus to do many good things.
“For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Ephesians 2:10 NLT).
To grow into the people God intended takes relationships. Believers are tools in the hands of God to help shape and mold other believers into His image for maximum effectiveness. Refusing to enter into relationships hinders the work of God within the body of Christ.
As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (Proverbs 27:17 NLT).
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to cut something with a dull axe. But when an axe is nice and sharp, it is quite effective. To be effective for the kingdom of God requires being sharpened on a regular basis. Sharpening personal growth happens in the context of supportive and strengthening relationships.
It is no wonder believers have a desire for growth and a sense of greatness on the inside. God calls human beings His masterpiece, saved for good things! His plan for a believer’s growth and accomplishment of these things requires frequently gathering with other people, particularly God’s people, a new family.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24–25 NLT).
Believers often have good intentions, such as a desire to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, mentor underprivileged children, pray for the sick, visit those in prison, and the list goes on. However, there is often a significant gap between these good intentions and good works.
The bridge over this gap is achieved by faithfully meeting together with other believers. Gathering together gives the body of Christ the opportunity to motivate one another, and good intentions turn into acts of love and good works. When there is action, believers experience personal growth. Meeting together provides the opportunity to mobilize for maximum effectiveness in making a difference in the world.
Authentic, genuine conversations are refreshing, and sharing with a trusted person the things impacting the heart is freeing. That is a small glimpse of the transformation God has for each person in the context of healthy relationships.
Transformation happens in the context of relationships because nobody heals alone. All people have baggage from past hang-ups, habits, and heartbreaks, and many continue carrying it into the present. This is why relationships are needed that offer accountability, grace, and forgiveness. Individuals need a group of people who can listen to heart issues and offer prayer that will heal deep wounds. God’s plan for healing and transformation includes honest, vulnerable conversations and faith-filled prayers that produce transforming results. Transformation for the soul is one conversation and one earnest prayer away.
“Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results” (James 5:1 NLT).
It has been said that we are as sick as our secrets. The good news is, Jesus made mercy available to all. Souls are healed and prosper when believers confess sin to God and to one another, and pray for each other. When yesterdays are settled, transformation happens today.
“People who conceal their sins will not prosper, but if they confess and turn from them, they receive mercy” (Proverbs 28:13 NLT).
What is wrong with this world? Sin is what is wrong with the world. Yet, when Jesus changes hearts, believers can begin making the difference people are looking for. Jesus teaches His church to love one another as a family. It is an upside-down kingdom where the greatest becomes the least, the first becomes the last, and the best is the servant of all. Christians are charged with the most compelling mission: to bring heaven to earth, make disciples of nations, and see lives transformed by the presence of Jesus. His invitation extends to everyone to be part of a family with a purpose.
“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples” (John 13:34–35 NLT).
“Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20 NLT).
In whatever sphere believers are found, the church’s purpose remains the same: to make disciples and help people follow Jesus. The following are some helpful tips for bringing others to new life in Christ.
First, go and tell! Look for an opportunity to tell others of the great things God is doing. Make a phone call, write a letter, or send an email to friends and family. Post a video on social media. When having coffee with a friend, ask questions that will steer the conversation to a spiritual tone. This may create an opportunity for a personal testimony about the goodness of God. Never underestimate the presence of the Holy Spirit in those casual conversations.
Second, invite other to come and see! Make it a point to end those encounters with an invitation to church or a small group. Remember that the next step for a new believer is water baptism. As the opportunity presents itself, share the importance of baptism. Make that experience significant by being present.
Bringing others to closer relationships in the body of Christ can be as simple as extending an invitation to a small group or a gathering of friends. Believers should consider inviting others to an event or gathering outside of the church building. Many of the unchurched have never been exposed to day-to-day life as a Christian. A believer’s lifestyle speaks volumes about what it means to be saved.
No life is without purpose. Within each individual is the need to contribute. Jesus’ instructions to His disciples emphasized the need to serve one another. New believers should be encouraged to follow the example set by Christ and serve in some aspect of ministry. In an environment of serving, leadership skills are discovered and can be developed. Individuals are encouraged to pursue training to reach people within their circles of influence.
Jesus forewarned that all believers would face many troubles in this world (John 16:33), and all means all! Not one person is exempt, immune, or clear of such trouble. During those troubled times, believers may feel far from God and emotionally depleted or disconnected from Him. The solution God provides may be a supernatural miracle. Many have experienced this, and it is wonderful. However, God may choose to use His family, the body of believers.
The solution God has already provided to care for Christians is found in their relationships with other believers in the church.
The body of Christ fits together perfectly and works perfectly. When needs arise, they are noticed. When hurts happen, they are felt. When burdens come, they are shared. It is vitally important that believers are connected to the body of Christ (specifically, the local church) because it is the only way to experience all parts doing their special work to nurture the hurting back to health in time of need.
“He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love” (Ephesians 4:16 NLT).
It is true that the pastor is called to care for the sheep, but God does not limit Himself to one person or a staff doing all the caring.He multiplies His efforts to care for people through the body of Christ. Paul, in his letter to the church at Corinth, shared how he himself was encouraged by God through an individual in the body of Christ:
“But God, who encourages those who are discouraged, encouraged us by the arrival of Titus” (2 Corinthians 7:6 NLT).
Equally important to believers receiving care is the care that God wants them to give to others in His church. He wants believers to be His hands and feet. God pours out His love and comfort when believers experience trouble, and He desires to love and comfort the world as well. Believers are God’s plan for comforting hurting people, bringing healing to those broken by sin, and helping those carrying a heavy burden.
“He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4 (NLT).
“Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2 NLT).
Two good questions for the believer to ask are, “Who am I connected to in the body of Christ that could provide care for me during my time of need?” and “Who is connected to me that I could care for in their time of need?” God cares for His church and provides supernaturally via miracles or His body.
Sometimes, His body is the miracle.
God created His people for Himself and for others. Have an open heart toward His family. Be ready to grow and develop into the fullness of His purpose. Receive His care and give care to others. Let’s change the world together!
Notes: How Groups Are Done at Bethany