by Sarah Knapp, member Northside church of Christ, Conway AR
Why Should we be Close?
This topic has become very important to me over the last couple of years, with so much being shaken up with Covid, and particularly how much time brethren spend with each other. My husband and I realized that prior to Covid, we did not emphasize time with brethren nearly enough, and we are working to change that. We are convinced that closeness is vital to so much of the function of the church, and is the basis for the interaction of the first century Christians we read about in the New Testament.
So many are crying out for more closeness and relationships with brethren, and in many areas and churches, that seems to be quite difficult. Let's explore this topic together, and hopefully we can help follow God's design for closeness as a body and family.
Why are Christians together in churches?
Worship is a reason to come together, but we could worship God by ourselves. I believe one of the primary purposes for Christians coming together is to help each other go to heaven. Can we do that effectively if we don’t spend much time together or know each other well?
Purpose of Closeness
Important for spiritual health of each Christian. Heb. 3:13 This passage indicates we need frequent, daily interactions with brethren to help us not to be hardened with the deceitfulness of sin. This also gives the purpose for our closeness, to help each other be stronger spiritually. Casual conversations and interactions have their place, but these deeper conversations about how our souls are doing are vital.
What are practical ideas you have to make this a daily part of our lives to be in close contact with our brethren, and having these needed conversations to help us not to be "hardened by the deceitfulness of sin."?
If we aren’t close, how can we fulfill commands to rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep, 1 Cor 12:26? If not close, how can we correct brethren overtaken in sin, Gal 6:1? How can we stir up love and good works, exhorting one another as we meet often, Heb 10:24-25, if not close to each other or talking much each week?
I neglected to comment more on this in the previous email, but I’m really wondering if a lack of closeness is one of the reasons evangelism often seems not very fruitful. In the following passage, Jesus says that our love for each other is what will help people know we are His disciples. Are they clearly seeing that in us, in our everyday lives?
Necessary for evangelism. -Jn 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.  By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
Love brethren as Jesus loves us, to help all know that we are disciples of Christ. How will people see this love for each other?
Closeness is Part of Holiness
- 1 Thess 3:12-13 “and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you,  so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.”
Increase and abound in love for one another and all to establish our hearts blameless in holiness. Loving each other is part of being holy!
-1 Pet 1:22-23 “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart,  since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;”
Why are we purified?! Here it says for a sincere brotherly love by loving one another earnestly from a pure heart!!
Implied in these passages is a priority on relationships to each other as Christians. Is closeness with other Christians top priority to us, what we make sure we have time for? If we don’t have time for other Christians much, why don’t we? What needs to be cut out so that this very important matter can happen? If there is a conflict between activities to promote closeness with Christians and other activities, what gets bumped off?
If I had not experienced it first hand, I would have doubted it could be done, but we stayed with and visited a group of Christians that got together, either part or all the group 5-10 times a week!! And 3 of the families had 4-6 young children who they homeschooled, and they still made it a priority. They showed me it is possible to live out these Scriptures with very frequent interactions! What about us?! What can we do to make sure our lives aren’t too busy to make this a very high priority?
I can cut back on gardening, time intensive cooking, focusing overmuch on fun for me and our children, and keeping our schoolwork as simple as possible. We CAN make time for this!!
I think that hospitality is key. It will in general be the avenue to build closer relationships, even though other things can work, too. I think once we have a strong commitment to making closeness a priority, then the opportunities and ways are endless. But, if our heart isn't there, and we aren't willing to sacrifice to make it happen, it won't matter how easy or hard it is.
Would we like our churches to grow in maturity? Here’s part of it!
Growth in the church in these passages comes from closeness, working together closely, no matter how much we are different.
Eph. 4:1-6 one in Christ, be diligent to achieve unity, be one. Context is that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ.
Vs.9-16 Each member doing its part, working together to cause growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
Col. 2:19 “and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments grows with the increase that is from God.”
I feel closeness is so vital for all the reasons we’ve looked at, and is all through the culture we see in the first century church in the New Testament. How important is it to us?
I'm praying that we will be who God wants us to be, to love each other in a deep, sacrificial way, and that we will truly spur each other on to go to heaven together! A friend said recently, aching for deeper fellowship, "Why would we just come to sit in pews together?!" If sitting in pews together is the majority of a church body's time together, with no committed, practical interest in knowing each other's personal struggles and sin to help each other grow, are we really that committed to each others' souls?