When God created us, He made us desire to be community with others. He also did it in such a way that individually we cannot live a fulfilled life unless we are part of a community. But community means far more than just meeting each other and doing a few things together. As the following shows, such community needs to be in small groups.
Parity – seeking to achieve an equality of power amongst its members, so that each sees the other as God sees the other;
Proximity – breaking down barriers which prevent physical access to each other, so that socialising and pastoral care can take place naturally;
Multiplicity – seeing each other in a variety of settings on a regular basis during the week, thus getting to know the real person;
Directness – learning to be open with each other in a loving and sensitive way, seeking to help each other grow as a person in all areas of life;
Commonality – identifying shared interests and areas of life and participating in them, thus deepening the friendships between each other;
Continuity – spending quality time with each other over a lengthy period of time, as friendships take time to develop.
The key to true fellowship (koinonia) is love – see Romans 12:10, 13:8; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 1 John 3:11, 23; 4:7, 11, 12; 2 John 1:5 – as shown in the following ways though meeting together on a regular basis (Acts 2:46; Hebrews 10:25):
“One another” is two words in English, but it’s only one word in Greek: ἀλλήλων (ah-LAY-loan). It’s used in 100 times in 94 New Testament verses.
47 of those verses give instructions to the church, and 60% of those instructions come from Paul.
When you look at these verses, a few more common themes show up.
Unity. One third of the one-another commands deal with the unity of the church.
- Be at peace with one another (Mk 9:50)
- Don’t grumble among one another (Jn 6:43)
- Be of the same mind with one another (Ro 12:16, 15:5)
- Accept one another (Ro 15:7)
- Wait for one another before beginning the Eucharist (1 Co 11:33)
- Don’t bite, devour, and consume one another—seriously, guys, don’t eat each other(Ga 5:15)
- Don’t boastfully challenge or envy one another (Ga 5:26).
- Gently, patiently tolerate one another (Ep 4:2)
- Be kind, tender-hearted, and forgiving to one another (Ep 4:32)
- Bear with and forgive one another (Co 3:13)
- Seek good for one another, and don’t repay evil for evil (1 Th 5:15)
- Don’t complain against one another (Jas 4:11, 5:9)
- Confess sins to one another (Jas 5:16)
Love. One third of them instruct Christians to love one another.
- Love one another (Jn 13:34, 15:12, 17; Ro 13:8; 1 Th 3:12, 4:9; 1 Pe 1:22; 1 Jn 3:11, 4:7, 11; 2 Jn 5)
- Through love, serve one another (Ga 5:13)
- Tolerate one another in love (Ep 4:2)
- Greet one another with a kiss of love (1 Pe 5:14)
- Be devoted to one another in love (Ro 12:10)
Humility. About 15% stress an attitude of humility and deference among believers.
- Give preference to one another in honor (Ro 12:10)
- Regard one another as more important than yourselves (Php 2:3)
- Serve one another (Ga 5:13)
- Wash one another’s feet (Jn 13:14)
- Don’t be haughty: be of the same mind (Ro 12:16)
- Be subject to one another (Ep 5:21)
- Clothe yourselves in humility toward one another (1 Pe 5:5)
Here’s the rest:
- Do not judge one another, and don’t put a stumbling block in a brother’s way (Ro 14:13)
- Greet one another with a kiss (Ro 16:16; 1 Co 16:20; 2 Co 13:12)
- Husbands and wives: don’t deprive one another of physical intimacy (1 Co 7:5)
- Bear one another’s burdens (Ga 6:2)
- Speak truth to one another (Ep 4:25)
- Don’t lie to one another (Co 3:9)
- Comfort one another concerning the resurrection (1 Th 4:18)
- Encourage and build up one another (1 Th 5:11)
- Stimulate one another to love and good deeds (He 10:24)
- Pray for one another (Jas 5:16)
- Be hospitable to one another (1 Pe 4:9)
For a small group to work, each member needs to agree to group values such as:
Affirmation– it is important to create an atmosphere where group members affirm and encourage one another, build one another up in Christ, and help each grow;
Openness – in the relationships within the group promotes honesty and an ease in sharing feelings, struggles, joys, and hurts. For that to happen, there has to be time set aside for sharing;
Confidentiality – promising whatever is said in the group will not be shared elsewhere, thus creating a safe environment for everyone to practise honesty and openness;
Accountability – voluntary submission to each other for support, encouragement, and exhortation, thus building up authentic relationships within the group;
Sensitivity – a commitment to being aware of the needs, feelings, backgrounds and current situations of group members, so that appropriate support is given;
Prayer – supporting each other in regular prayer, through such ways as on your own, the prayer chain and when you meet together;
Availability – where members show a desire to want to spend time with the rest of the group, looking forward to their time together, as well as a willingness to share their resources with one another.