Monday, October 31, 2005


Intimacy was what we were made for. What air is to the body, to feel understood is to the heart. Dante defined Hell as “proximity without intimacy.” Dean Ornish reports that solitary people are three to five times likelier to die earlier than people with ties to a loving group of family or friends. Based on the research, a doctor would be just as wise to proscribe relationships as drugs or operations. We do proscribe relationships at CTK. We ask every person at CTK to participate in a weekly small group, because we see the following benefits:

1. Friendship. Sydney Smith put it so well when he said, “Life is to be fortified by many friendships. To love and be loved is the greatest happiness of existence.” The Apostle Paul’s approach to ministry was intensely personal. The last chapter of Romans reflects this.

Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me….Greet my dear friend Epenetus, who was the first convert to Christ in the province of Asia. Greet Mary, who worked very hard for you. Greet Andronicus and Junias, my relatives who have been in prison with me. They are outstanding among the apostles, and they were in Christ before I was. Greet Ampliatus, whom I love in the Lord. Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my dear friend Stachys. Greet Apelles, tested and approved in Christ. Greet those who belong to the household of Aristobulus. Greet Herodion, my relative. Greet those in the household of Narcissus who are in the Lord. Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord. Greet Rufus, chosen in the Lord, and his mother, who has been a mother to me, too. Greet Asyncritus, Phlegon, Hermes, Patrobas, Hermas and the brothers with them. Greet Philologus, Julia, Nereus and his sister, and Olympas and all the saints with them.
- Romans 16:3-16

This is a list of twenty-seven friends that he had established in Rome. There were a lot more Christians than that in Rome. But while you can be friendly with an unlimited of people, you can be friends with a limited number of people. While many churches work at being friendly, at CTK we want people to find friends to share the journey. There is a difference between experiencing friendliness and having friends.

Research suggests we have limited capacity for friendship. A test was done where people were shown flash cards with a certain number of dots on them. In a limited amount of time the subjects of the trial were to identify the number of dots on the page. The subjects would get the number right up to about seven dots. Beyond that number, people started to guess. There seems to be a built-in intellectual capacity for seven. This is the reason that telephone numbers have seven digits. Alexander Graham Bell wanted to have the longest sequence possible so that there would be more possibilities, but wanted a number small enough to be memorable, to avoid wrong numbers. What the research suggests is there is an intellectual boundary that calls for a small group.

People have a channel capacity for relationships. If you have more than a certain number of emotional channels opened up, you become overwhelmed. When people are asked to list the names of the people who, if they died, would leave them truly devastated, chances are you will not respond with over twelve names. One of the reasons why we are committed to small groups of 3-10 people is that it seems to be the optimum size for friendships.

2. Growth. A key to spiritual growth is to be in community with others who can spur you on toward it.

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together.
- Hebrews 10:24,25

In a small group you will experience spiritual growth. A weekly meeting with other people who are growing in their faith helps to keep you on track in your own spiritual journey. It keeps the things that are truly important on the front burner. Without that meeting, we can find ourselves easily distracted by the tyranny of the urgent.

In the 1780s during a 5 year period the number of people meeting in small groups under John Wesley went from 20,000 to 90,000. John Wesley was not a charismatic preacher. His genius was organizational.

Wesley realized that if you wanted to bring about a fundamental change in people’s belief and behavior, a change that would persist and serve as an example to others, you needed to create a community around them, where those new beliefs could be practiced and expressed and nurtured….It’s easier to remember and appreciate something, after all, if you discuss it for two hours with your best friends. It becomes a social experience, and object of conversation.
- Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point

It is through community that truth is built into our lives. That we grow.

3. Encouragement. The number one thing that gets delivered in a small group is encouragement. When people walk away from a group meeting feeling encouraged, they are walking away from a good group meeting. The challenge for most people is not the gap between what they know and what they don’t know. It is the gap between what they know and what they are living. Most people are trafficking in unlived truth. They know more than they are putting into practice.

Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
- 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
- Hebrews 10:25

Sometimes the encouragement you receive in a small group is overt, sometimes more covert. When you are around people who are taking steps, you’re inclined to take some yourself. Have you ever been on a street corner with a group of people, waiting to cross a street, with no traffic coming in either direction? Even though the signal has not changed to “walk” there are probably several people in the group who are secretly wanting to walk across. Then someone decides to go. And almost unconsciously the group follows. Being in a group can carry you in a direction you might not have the courage to go on your own. When you get around people who are taking steps of faith, it becomes contagious, and before you even realize what is happening, you are taking steps too.

I think people crave to have a family; you aspire to have one, you create one in any way you can.
- Jennifer Elise Cox, The Brady Bunch

Christ died in part to create a new opportunity for you to be born again into a new family, the family of God. This was Jesus’ invitation to us at the last supper, the eve of his crucifixion.

It was just before the Passover Feast. Jesus knew that the time had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he now showed them the full extent of his love.
- John 13:1

Jesus did not have this final meal in order to model a religious ceremony. He did this to show his disciples how much He loved them. He showed it in washing their feet. In what he shared with them. In giving them the bread and the cup. We refer to this event in two ways: as the Lord’s Supper (which speaks to the vertical aspect of it) and as Communion (which speaks to the horizontal aspect of it). Jesus said keep doing this, even after I’m gone. Jesus was saying: This type of community you have experienced with me, continue to celebrate it in the future.

James Patterson wrote Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas about a mother who keeps a diary for her baby about to be born. Her words of advice are instructive for us.

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping them all in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls are made of glass. If you drop one of these , it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.

I like that analogy. And I guess I would say, when it comes to finding intimacy with others, don’t drop the ball.

Kriss Leadbetter (who with her husband Dean are praying and working towards establishing CTK in Allyn, WA) made a presentation at CTK in Oak Harbor called “Practical Ways to Fulfill the Mission of CTK in Regards to Small Groups.” I thought it was an excellent piece of work. Here were her points.....

Pray for the empty chair.
Seek out people attending CTK (regular and new) – ask if they are in a small group and if not….
Give them a list of the groups, times and places, etc.
Make note of their names and pray for them to get connected.
Don’t assume that workers or long time attendees are connected with a group.
Be open to leading and multiplying as the Lord leads.*
Pray for all the small groups.

1 Peter 4:8 – Above all keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

Colossians 1:1-12

Hebrews 10:23-25

*Remember there are many others out there that would like to experience the warmth and love you have in your group. That’s why we need to multiply. We don’t lose those that we already know and love but we gain more. Love will increase as we give it away.

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