Here is another key ingredient that will help foster intimacy and none of us like it…
Time and Patience
Intimacy among a group of people doesn’t happen fast. The type of intimacy where life transformation takes place is the product of faithfully giving ourselves to care for each other over an extended period of time. With that being true, we should fight against getting frustrated when what we desire does not happen as quickly as we would like. We also cannot force intimacy. Our part is to be faithful in caring for and encouraging one another in the Lord so that the stage is set for the Holy Spirit to move when He wants to move.
It was after Jesus spent 3 years with His disciples that He said in John 15:14, “No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” Over the course of three years of spending a significant amount of time together, making themselves known to each other and sharing experiences together, Jesus calls them friends.
In 1 Thess. 2:7-12, Paul says they were gentle and caring like a mother and encouraging like a father…laboring night and day. Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy worked hard in their commitment to seeing transformation in people’s lives. In their commitment they took the time to build deep relationships that looked like those within a family. When we get to the point of treating each other as family, there is deep intimacy.
The point is be patient, be faithful, and model the type of intimacy that you desire to see happen in your group.
Here are a few things that will help move you forward.
• Create opportunities outside of official group time for the group to just hang out.
• Plan times to serve together. The shared experience of serving others together creates a moment where the group must learn to work together and sacrifice together and thus create a tighter bond.
• Model and challenge those in your group to schedule one-on-one time with other members of the group.
• Schedule regular time in your group gatherings for each individual to tell their story in 15 minutes.
Life change happens in environments of TRUST but there must also be INTIMACY.
In 1 Thessalonians 2:7, the Apostle Paul compares his relationship with the people like that of a gentle nursing mother. One of the manly men in the Bible…like a nursing mother. We are called to be intimate in our care for one another.
Here is a key Ingredient that helps foster Intimacy.
Another way to put this is that the leader must be growing as the kind of person who is easy to see through. How we feel, what we think, and what is going on in our lives should be increasingly clear to those we are seeking to disciple. This is very risky but when done under the leadership of the Holy Spirit it can open the door for others to be honest about themselves.
Have you ever thought about Jesus as being transparent? Scripture indicates that as time went by He revealed more and more of who He was to His disciples. At the start of His ministry with the disciples He simply said “come follow me and I will make you fishers of men” (Mat. 4:19). He did not tell them everything about Himself or about what was going to happen. It was just the first invitation to follow. By the end of His investment in them He said, “I know longer call you servants but I call you friends, for all things I have heard from my father I have made known to you” (John 15:15). Then in a huge act of transparency He says to His disciples, “My soul is deeply grieved, to the point of death; remain here and keep watch with me” (Matt. 26:37).
The One who is the “Head over every power and authority” (Col. 2:10), said to His creation “My soul is sorrowful, stay with me.” That blows my mind. But, I see this as a model because the disciples were able to see how Jesus related to the Father in His most sorrowful moment so far. It was a moment of great intimacy.
Those in our groups need to see how we walk with God in difficult moments. We need to model that it is “ok” to be transparent and ask for others to “sit with us” when life is hard. Here are a few things I have learned in my own journey to be transparent.
1) I can miss out on the power of God in the Family of God when I am not transparent.
2) It is hard…but when done by the leading of the Holy Spirit it is life transforming.
3) It takes wisdom, discernment, and a step of faith.
4) Being transparent creates an opportunity for me to express trust in others.
5) Someone else’s’ transparency is an opportunity for me to model being trustworthy.
6) It is still hard…there will be times when you are transparent and people will turn their back on you…but we still need to model it in faith.
7) Moments of true transparency are moments orchestrated by the Holy Spirit to teach us how to love one another.