The Bible talks about how good and pleasant it is when believers dwell together in unity (Psalm 133:1). In the book of Acts, we read how the early believers were together and had all things in common (Acts 2:44). There is healing and provision in biblical community, not to mention the joy of deep, authentic relationships. Biblical community provides opportunities for spiritual growth, discipleship, equipping, and deployment into the harvest fields to reach people for Jesus.
But in order for biblical community to be healthy, a central component must be practiced: members must be honest, real, and transparent with one another.
There’s a verse of Scripture in the book of Ephesians that I have been soaking in for weeks. It says, “Therefore, laying aside falsehood, speak truth each one of you with his neighbor, for we are members of one another” (Ephesians 4:25). Obviously, lying in any form is detrimental to biblical community, but this verse is stating something more than simply telling lies. Falsehood (pseudos) can also refer to someone who is pretentious or inauthentic. In other words, someone who disguises the truth about their life and pretends that all is well when it actually is not would be an example of falsehood.
This verse tells us to “lay aside” all falsehood which can actually mean to take off or remove something from you. One expositor translated this verse, “Take off the mask and be honest with one another because we are all one family and we belong to each other.” Nothing is worse than Christians who are inauthentic and deceptive with each other. Many churches, Bible studies, and small groups are filled with people who hide behind masks and rarely reveal the truth about their self. As a result, true transformation of life and character is impaired. Biblical community that is nourishing, as well as spiritually and emotionally healthy, can only be established on truth-telling.
Recently, I was reading about John Wesley’s small groups (bands) during the 1700s. Wesley valued the process of holiness and felt that Christ-likeness could only be established in community. It required “close conversation” where members of a small band would speak truthfully with each other. Before entering a small group applicants were required to answer these questions:
- Do you desire to be told of your faults?
- Do you desire to be told of all your faults, and that plain and home (close, severe)?
- Do you desire that every one of us should tell you from time to time whatsoever is in his heart concerning you?
- Consider! Do you desire we should tell you whatsoever we think, whatsoever we fear, whatsoever we hear, concerning you?
- Do you desire that in doing this we should come as close as possible, that we should cut to the quick, and search your heart to the bottom?
- Is it your desire and design to be on this and all other occasions entirely open, so as to speak everything that is in your heart, without exception, without disguise, and without reserve?
Just imagine if small groups or discipleship groups today would employ questions such as those listed. It’s sad to admit, but too many people want community without accountability. I’ve had people ask me to hold them accountable for something and when I actually did, they got angry with me. Shouldn’t the Church be the place where we can be honest and transparent with each other?
I do agree with Kris Vallotton who said that accountability is to “give an account of one’s ability.” Vallotton was emphasizing the need to draw out the best in people; to focus on the potential of a person rather than their problems. If we only focus on someone’s sin in a small group, it might be difficult for them to think beyond mere sin management. However, there should be enough trust and mutual respect for each other to enable confession when we’ve missed the mark. James 5:16 says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed.” I’ve been in services where true, honest confession occurred and the result was spiritual, emotional, and physical healing.
Community should be real, authentic, and transparent. I’m certainly aware that there’s an appropriate level of disclosure when you don’t know people very well. But start thinking about building a small band of people where truth-telling can occur. Start praying that your church and discipleship groups are places where people feel safe enough to take their mask off. I’ll never forget the time when a young man came forward during a service that I was leading and openly confessed his addiction with pornography. His confession was met with love, prayer, and support from a few men in that particular church. Today, this man is on fire for Jesus and fulfilling his God-given abilities. His freedom, however, occurred when he was able to take his mask off and speak truthfully.
I’m praying for my church. I want our community of faith to be a place where people feel safe; where honest confession can occur and we don’t assemble on the weekends with a mask over our face. I would hope that every biblical community is an honest environment where people can speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15). Join me in prayer for that to be normal.
Jesus, I ask that you give me a small band of people who I can be transparent with. I ask that honesty and authenticity will spread throughout my church and every church across our nation, amen