Yesterday at church, one of the pastor’s spoke on “Transforming Relationships.” During his message, he reiterated something that I have heard other pastors at the church talk about. They refer to the church and it’s ministries in a “home” analogy: the foyer, the living room and the kitchen. They will explain the concept this way: the Sunday church services are like a foyer, where you get to know people; a sort of introduction to the family. The living family represents some of the larger ministries: the men’s group, MOPS (mothers of preschoolers), the old people (can’t remember what they’re called which probably means I should be part of the group), etc. In the living room, you get a little a little better acquainted. And finally the kitchen represents their small groups, where the most intimacy, and most of transformation, occurs.
I’ve heard this concept in several churches in several states (Minnesota, Nevada, South Carolina, and Washington come to mind right away. Perhaps the leadership of these churches have al read the same book (and perhaps I should do likewise). But I wonder if we really have to full picture.
During the message yesterday, the pastor used Proverbs 27:5-6, 17 as the support for his thesis. I like those verses, but I come to a somewhat different conclusion.
Verse 5 says, “Better is open rebuke than love that is concealed.” The pastor talked about the importance of open rebuke. One of the two examples he gave of open rebuke was a mother in a store with a child who she was publicly chiding. He said something like, “That kid won’t ever do that again, at least in public.” The inference was the public rebuke is not a good practice – which I generally tend to agree with.
His second example involved a friend named Mimi or Minnie (you know me – I can’t hear the differences in similar sounds and one of my hearing aide batteries had gone dead!). Minnie pulled him aside one day ad talked with him about some things in his life. He mentioned that the conversation was painful. But Minnie was right on, and he spoke of her appreciation for open rebuke, rather than concealing her love and not broaching the subject.
He went on to speak about verse 17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” I have to admit that I became lost in my own thought at this point. A point that I want to make here.
Verse 17 talks about two men; one is sharpening another. It doesn’t say “As iron sharpens iron, so a small group sharpens another.” While small groups have their usefulness, and we should all strive to be part of one, the most intimate relationships occur one-on-one. The examples the pastor gave of open rebuke were both one-on-one situations (one public, one private).
This is where the analogy of a home fails. While there are several rooms where people can gather and get to know one another, love one another, encourage one another (I’m thinking of Hebrews 10:24,25), there are times when things are done best one-to-one.
For me, this one-on-one (life-on-life, man-to-man) time can be done in the privacy of my home, my buddies apartment, or at Whataburger or Panera Bread. The important thing is to see the value of this one-to-one time.
Using the pastor’s example, it’s not that we want to mother to rebuke her child in a small group (the kitchen) or the foyer (in front of an entire church). We prefer that she rebuke her child lovingly and in private, but still one-on-one.
By not mentioning one-to-one time, we leave out some of the richest time we can have with one another. Time when tears are shared, sins are confessed, thoughts are challenged. Sure, there are times when these times can be done in small groups, but they are most intimately done, with the best chance of transformation, in a one-to-one environment.
I long for the day for the church to see how important man-to-man and woman-to-woman times are and teach it, not only from the pulpit, but also by example.