Many Christian small group meetings include sharing and prayer, and most of the responses are predictable. Health, jobs, and family members—these concerns dominate our lists.
There’s nothing wrong with this. We should pray for the physical needs of our friends. These top-level requests consume our thinking throughout the day, and God wants us to “cast our anxieties on him” (1 Peter 5:7).
But a small group prayer list that contains only such requests is incomplete. To build close friendships, you must share the concerns closest to your heart. And that means opening up.
Why We Don’t Share
Sharing from the heart is just plain hard. It’s unnatural, and I suspect we avoid sharing for two main reasons.
Sometimes we are not in touch with our battles against sin. Peter tells us that our lusts “wage war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11). When we don’t fight, the conflict is one-sided, and our enemies are relentless.
Other times, we know our sin but don’t want to talk about it. For assorted reasons, we’re unwilling to let our friends see our areas of greatest need.
As we walk the path toward greater honesty, we need to acknowledge the steep climb. Let’s be patient with each other—we all have room to grow.
Why We Should Share
Most small group ministries are built on the “one another” commands in the Bible. (Here’s a great list.) God’s demands border on impossible without an intimate, commited community.
Consider how refreshing it would be to belong to a small group devoted to obeying God in these ways.
- Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
- Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. (Rom 12:10)
- Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. (Gal 6:2)
- Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing. (1 Thess 5:11)
- Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. (Eph 4:25)
- Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. (1 Pet 4:9)
Each of these commands requires vulnerability. How can I bear my friend’s burdens if he doesn’t tell me what they are? How can we confess our sins to each other if we keep our hearts locked up tight? How will I know how to encourage my friend if I don’t know any of his deep struggles?
We should share because God commands it. But God doesn’t issue commands on a whim. Sharing our struggles is good for us.
The Blessing of Sharing
As you open up to your friends, you might be surprised at the help you receive.
Because prayer is effective, God actually gives me strength in my fight against particular sins as my group prays for me. My friends can ask me questions and provide tangible support. They can preach the gospel to me on a regular basis.
As you share, you encourage others in your group to follow suit. And as others open up, you build a deeper sense of community within the group. Everyone is in a common fight. Your struggles aren’t exactly the same, but everyone has a battle and no one is strong enough to fight on their own.
Jesus Makes It Possible
Sharing like this is scary and counterintuitive. It might feel just the opposite of safe. But the gospel of Jesus changes everything.
Your sin is not a surprise to God. He knows it better than you. And, if you’re a Christian, his commitment to you is so deep and steadfast that no sin of yours can drive him away.
The sin you want to stuff down and hide is the same sin Jesus bore on the cross. He was made sin so that we might be made righteous (2 Cor 5:21).
We can share our sin because it no longer defines us. Our struggles against the flesh are real, but because of Jesus’s work we have real hope, real help, and real possibility of change. We don’t need to fear abandonment or exile—Jesus suffered that in our place and God is just.
What Does This Look Like?
If you’ve never been part of a small group that talked or prayed on this level, you might wonder how this looks in practice. How exactly do you share or confess your sins to your friends?
Check back next week. I’ll try to explain.