We’ve faced and still are facing the greatest “one another” challenge of our age. And the challenge won’t be vaccinated out of the church body; no more than we can vaccinate against high cholesterol or cancer. It’s going to take work and some surgery with one another.
When I say “one another” I’m referring to the church body and the over 50 “one another” commands of the New Testament that involve our direct relational—and often physical ministry—to one another and to neighbors.
The great challenge will be the increased and increasing isolation and polarization in our churches. But I didn’t have to tell you that. You saw it in your Twitter feed. You probably felt it when asked whether you’d started attending in-person services or not. You may have even fed into it with a sarcastic comment about masks or no masks to your pastor or small group members.
How like our enemy to divide us over a piece of cloth. Right in line with our faith family history, isn’t it? The enemy keeps running the same game plans to frustrate any sign of a church community walking with God in unity. But, let’s not let him disrupt our fellowship. We also have some game plans with which we can respond.
The way back to one another
There’s a path back to one another that will have more of an effect than a rotating approach to masks. That’s a technical change that will not address the root of the matter. What I’m talking about is a recommitment to the commands that govern our heart and actions toward each other.
The warfare we’re facing isn’t over a piece of cloth, the body politic, or even the human body. But it is in humans. Outward attempts will do little for lasting change. We won’t wrangle the church culture back to unity with our expertly-crafted late-night emails to church leaders or marshalling those who agree with “our side.” That destroys unity, or at least complicates it greatly.
Our issues are relational, heart-level with God and one another. We need to start there, and start small. Our small groups may be the best place to start. Here are a few simple but powerful and effective ways to keep your group from being further divided by the enemy of God as we all reenter into the new normal of life with one another:
- Prayer before
A simple, profound way to prepare for the warfare and the work in small group is to pray over the seats where you meet. Many times a prayer team or volunteers will do this before a service meeting on a church campus. We should do the same before our group meets.
Your group members are likely human beings of habit who sit in the same general spot each time. Use this for the work and the warfare. Pray by name for the individual who sits in each seat. Ask for the Lord to give you Scripture to pray for them. Pray for what you know about them and what they’ve shared. And ask for God to meet them in group.
- Prayer over one another
The enemy hates friendship, or even just healthy relationships between Christians. And we wonder why these are so hard? It’s because the assault on them is constant.
So, too, should be our prayers over and for one another. Spend the first part of group time acknowledging the truth of the warfare in your group. Then pray over and for one another. We’ve found the best landing for this is to pray and practice the one another commands of Scripture when you meet. And as you are apart, keep praying for one another and what the Lord is doing in your group.
- Prayer afterward
Small group is spiritual work and warfare. Pray to close the group and include a blessing over the house where it’s held. Ask that the Lord would guard and guide the souls in the groups and the homes represented. Such cleansing prayers are simple but essential to being sober-minded and vigilant (1 Pet. 5:8) as we keep pressing toward a closer community with God and one another.
United by prayer
It was the division of another cloth, the tearing of the temple curtain, which signified that the people of God were to be divided no longer, whether by ethnicity or political persuasion or any other “dividing wall” that we often construct. As our church groups and communities slowly ease their way back together, let’s work hard to maintain the unity that Jesus purchased with his blood. And let’s contend for that unity with prayer.