Pastors, Christian Leaders, Professors,
We must stop rushing openness and intimacy in the church. Human relationships go through a natural process during which we reveal ourselves more and more to those we know. God does this too. He did it over centuries and millenia during the writing of the Scriptures; God was slowing revealing Himself incrementally. Jesus, too, revealed Himself to His disciples slowly over three years. Why, then, do we promise people openness and transparency as an almost immediate expectation if people will visit our church? Why do we push those in our churches to feel as though they should be the warmest and most open people when visitors meet them? Or like the first night of the small group, each one in the group is expected to share their life story. We promise those who are visiting our churches that they will be greeted in warmth, in openness, and in love, to paraphrase one recent church advertisement I heard. I like these and think these sound wonderful, at least in theory. But relationships don’t work like this and if we consider how Yahweh and Jesus incrementally revealed themselves in their relationships to those closest to them we will find that we are not mimicking either Jesus or Yahweh by rushing openness. A large aspect of relating is gradual revealing and it is by this revealing that we cultivate intimacy. But why is it that it feels so artificial when there is no gradual revealing but just a rushed open box? That rushed openness we expect out of our people creates the artificiality. Friendship is childlike, it just happens organically and certain persons gravitate more towards some than others, but this “natural gravitation” does not prevent the general cultivation of love towards those who are not naturally attracted to one another. Instead there is a particular love to those we reveal ourselves to and a general love in the Spirit for those who worship the Lord Jesus: we are one with them even if I don’t know them personally.
So this is the irony, in the church’s hasty desire to cultivate intimacy and openness among its members, the church is undermining the very foundation of that priceless intimacy: that is, a gradual process of persons coming to know one another through gradual revealing to one another.
Our churches should have authentic persons. Forcing openness too quickly creates artificiality. We must be true to Christ and true to one another. God revealed Himself to us gradually and we are knowing Him more and more gradually through time as we relate to Him. Rushing openness in those we oversee is intuitively unnatural, unlike how God revealed Himself, and stands in the way of intimacy. Let us put on Christ and follow in His example, knowing we have come to know Him but that we incrementally know Him more, and so reveal ourselves as others reveal themselves to us, naturally, discerningly, and in its own time, not forced, not out of season.
B. T. Scalise