10 Ways to Kindle Intimacy in Your Church
Next, I saw under the sun something else that was pointless: 8 There are people who are utterly alone, with no companions, not even a child or a sibling. Yet they work hard without end, never satisfied with their wealth. So for whom am I working so hard and depriving myself of enjoyment? This too is pointless and a terrible obsession.
9 Two are better than one because they have a good return for their hard work. 10 If either should fall, one can pick up the other. But how miserable are those who fall and don’t have a companion to help them up! 11 Also, if two lie down together, they can stay warm. But how can anyone stay warm alone? 12 Also, one can be overpowered, but two together can put up resistance. A three-ply cord doesn’t easily snap.
Humans are created for intimate relationships. Without partners and the ability to build community, we could never thrive. Our children take a long time to mature and we are fairly weak. Yet, in spite of individual weakness, we thrive in nearly every place on the earth and even in outer space because of the bonds of community and shared creativity.
Intimacy formed in community to create and sustain one another reflects what it means to be created in the image of God. As humans, we are meant to reflect God’s triune nature of intimate co-creation and servanthood. In order to be fully human, as the Spirit-filled image of God charged with care for creation, we must be in deep and meaningful relationship with God and other people. Because of this, intimacy is something we all crave. Because we are human, with the ability to choose right from wrong, we contribute to a broken world with sinful and stunted ways of being intimate with one another, sometimes choosing to run from intimacy altogether.
Intimacy requires vulnerability and change and those two things can create anxiety in us. Intimacy can and should influence many of our relationships with friends, co-workers, and family. However, some cultures confuse intimacy with sexual activity. Yes, sexual activity does require vulnerability. Yet, the concept of intimacy, of knowing and loving another like God knows and loves us, is larger than human sexual activity. Cultures only showing or discussing intimacy related to sexual relationships can damage their ability to foster intimacy. Friendships and family suffer because of how we misunderstand intimacy. (as explored in an earlier blog entry)
The Bible is filled with intimate, life-giving, world-changing, non-sexual relationships we can model our lives after. Ruth and Naomi, Esther and Malachi, God and Abraham, God and Mary, Jonathan and David, Jesus and Peter, Paul and Barnabas, Job and his friends, Elijah and Elisha, Jesus, Mary, Martha, and Lazarus among others.
Recent research has identified “warmth” of a community as the single strongest predictor of a church’s vitality among young people. Warmth isn’t created by programs or structures. It is kindled by people in relationship with each other. Encouraging intimacy among a church family increases honesty, accountability, and the kind of support that the Body of Christ should live in to! Intimacy and vulnerability kindle warmth in relationships.
Here are 10 ways to cultivate your ability to kindle warmth, intimacy and vulnerability in your church family:
Mark 10:21 “Jesus looked at him and loved him”
Make eye contact with the people you are speaking to
Proverbs 27:17 “You use steel to sharpen steel, and one friend sharpens another.”
Go beyond the “highs and lows” of the week and ask one another the deep, soul-tending questions like “How is it with your soul?” or “When this week did you feel like God was absent?” or “When did you feel fully connected to abundant life?” or “Where do you feel like a failure?” or “What healing do you need?”
John 21:15 “When they finished eating, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?’ Simon replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’”
Say “I love you” to one another
Esther 4:12-14 “When they told Mordecai Esther’s words, he had them respond to Esther: ‘Don’t think for one minute that, unlike all the other Jews, you’ll come out of this alive simply because you are in the palace. In fact, if you don’t speak up at this very important time, relief and rescue will appear for the Jews from another place, but you and your family will die. But who knows? Maybe it was for a moment like this that you came to be part of the royal family.’”
Name the gifts you see in one another
Ephesians 1:15-16 “Since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, this is the reason that I don’t stop giving thanks to God for you when I remember you in my prayers."
Pray for one another daily
Ruth 1:16 “But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to abandon you, to turn back from following after you. Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you stay, I will stay. Your people will be my people, and your God will be my God.”
Make commitments to one another and follow through on them
Acts 2:46-47 “Every day, they met together in the temple and ate in their homes. They shared food with gladness and simplicity. 47 They praised God and demonstrated God’s goodness to everyone. The Lord added daily to the community those who were being saved.”
Psalm 150:4-6 “Praise God with drum and dance! Praise God with strings and pipe! Praise God with loud cymbals! Praise God with clashing cymbals! Let every living thing praise the Lord!
Galatians 6:1 “Brothers and sisters, if a person is caught doing something wrong, you who are spiritual should restore someone like this with a spirit of gentleness. Watch out for yourselves so you won’t be tempted too.”
Do not avoid conflict but speak truth to one another in a loving way
Matthew 18:21-22 “Then Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, how many times should I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Should I forgive as many as seven times?’ 22 Jesus said, ‘Not just seven times, but rather as many as seventy-seven times.’”
Forgive one another and do the hard work of reconciliation