News and Articles
19 November 2020
While imposing a lockdown in England from 5th November to 2nd December, the Government has recently encouraged one-to-one youth work and allowed for people to meet one person outside for daily exercise and/or support.
Christians have a long tradition of appreciating the opportunities of one-to-one meetings in order to mentor or gain mutual edification through vulnerable conversations, bible study and prayer. I think I have had some of my most meaningful and helpful conversations while running or walking or breakfasting after sport with another bloke. However, the discipline of meeting for a one-to-one has been less at the forefront of most people’s discipleship journey compared to say a daily ‘quiet time’.
For the sake of our Christian growth and the development of a culture of discipleship within the church, we adults need to be intentionally pursuing opportunities to enable vulnerable conversations and for our young people to be able to open up with a trusted person outside of a group where keeping up appearances is often paramount.
I think most people, perhaps men more so, feel pretty awkward meeting up with one other person to discuss their inner life. But it is vital. Recently we have seen a spate of christian leaders fall to adultery or toxic and unhealthy patterns in leadership because they did not have the habit of opening up to others.
The art of friendship
This art of friendship is something we are losing in our highly individualised and privatised world where most of us struggle with loneliness. Reading CS Lewis’ chapter on Friendship in The Four Loves is extremely profound. What is also striking is how Paul the Apostle modelled friendship. I imagine him as a very driven man but then I see him on the beach at Miletus with the Elders from Ephesus weeping on his neck as he says goodbye. In Tyre, I read about men women and children praying intimately on the beach with him. Then I skim read that extraordinary list of women and men in Romans 16 who were his dear friends and co-workers. Deep friendships are more important than quiet times for our Christian growth. Adam had a great quiet time every day but it was not good that he was alone.
Talking about sin and suffering
Suffering and sin are the sum of human struggles. This means that we need one another in the struggle with suffering and in our struggle with sin and temptation. James wrote his final words on these very matters:
My brothers if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20)
One-to-one conversations while running up a hill, or over coffee, can ward off a future avalanche of sin.
Humility is really important here. We come to all our relationships seeing our sins as worse than others’ sins so we have no reason to defend ourselves if someone points out our sin (Matthew 7:2-5)
In Thailand, I used to go running with two other guys every Sunday morning and then we’d go for a big breakfast . We got used to asking each other, ‘What are you struggling with at the moment’? There was the assumption that we were all struggling with something, whether that be lust, greed, anger, envy, discontent or something else. We would also want to be encouraged by what each other was learning from scripture, so we would normally share something that had struck us in our reading that week. This helped us to remember what we had read too, because we knew someone would ask. A relationship of three is often a bit easier than one-to-one but harder to organise.
So, I want to encourage every person at Above Bar church to make sure they are having at least one vulnerable conversation a week with another person and asking each other: What have you read recently in the bible that has spoken to you? What else are you reading? What are your struggling with? How can I pray for you?