Jesus designed Christian community to be the place we find wholeness, a congruency between who we are in public and who we are in private. He wants us to live together honestly and transparently. Not so we can be resigned to our brokenness, but so that we can begin to grow out of it, becoming more and more like him.
Jesus wants us to live abundantly. In John 10:10, he says, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” He didn’t come to take from us or to harm us. He came to release us from sin so we could connect with God and to show us how to live meaningfully in community with one another. A full, free life begins with a trusting relationship with God and expands outward into trusting relationships with other people.
Scripture describes the kind of community Jesus wants us to build with one another:
Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.
Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters.
Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. If anyone thinks they are something when they are not, they deceive themselves.
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.
These passages describe a community that is inclusive, accepting those who are exploring faith, not treating them as though they have to figure everything out and clean up their lives before they’re invited inside. It’s a community in which people can be themselves and depend on one another. It’s a community in which we don’t stand in judgment of one another’s flaws, but call one another to become our better selves—people who love and give to others.
Just like our relationship with God, our relationships with one another must be built on trust. And the ingredients for that trust are time and transparency.
Andy Stanley and Dan Mancini, Community Conversation Guide: Starting Well in Your Small Group (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2013).