“That their hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgment of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ” (Col 2:2).
What does it mean to have a close-knit congregation? Let’s take a look at the word knit. One definition is “unite—to bring people or things together in a close association.” Some synonyms are interweave, interlace, and interlock. The act of knitting brings two or more materials together in such a way that they are inseparable. They lose their own single identity to become one with others to make a whole of something else.
Now let’s add close to the equation. “Close” means having regular contact because of a shared interest in something. Another definition is “allowing little space between.” A fabric that is “close-knit” is strong. It retains its shape quite well. It keeps out unfriendly elements. The opposite is loose-knit. This fabric gets stretched out of shape easily. It does not provide shelter from unfriendly elements. It is not strong and sturdy.
So then, the question is, how do we maintain a close-knit congregation?
The first and most important ingredient is love. We need a Christlike love for our brotherhood. “Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another” (Rom 12:9-10). We must have a love that is genuine and sincere, that comes from the heart. This is not only love, but also a readiness, an inclination to love. It is a love that flows forth as from a bubbling spring out of our hearts.
By this love we place others ahead of ourselves. It will not bother us to see others honored more than ourselves or to have them receive commendation. Philippians 2:3 says, “Let each esteem other better than themselves.” We should be glad to hear praise given to another brother. We must esteem the good of others above our own good, because we know our imperfections better than anyone else.
Secondly, we must have unity in our congregations. “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity” (Psa 133:1). Yes, unity is a good thing. With unity, love abounds. It is blessed by God. Unity is also pleasant. Where unity is, enmity and strife are missing and peace reigns. “Those that live in love and peace shall have the God of love and peace with them now, and they shall be with him shortly, with him forever, in the world of endless love and peace.” When we dwell together in unity, we will delight in each other, wish one another well, and have one interest—one eternal goal.
To maintain closeness, we must remember each other in prayer often. I remember a brother, now gone to his reward, who at every prayer meeting would request, “Pray for one another.” “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now” (Php 1:3-5). Apostle Paul prayed often for the Philippian brethren with joy. It was not burdensome to pray for the ones he loved.
Praying for others strengthens our love for one another. Many times others feel our support as we approach the throne of grace and beseech God’s face in their behalf. And too, how often have we been encouraged by a fellow brother saying, “I’m praying for you today.” Let others know you care enough to pray for them. We need the help of fellow believers as we go through this life. We are here for one another. Paul writes in I Thessalonians 3:10, “Nig
ht and day praying exceedingly that we might see your face, and might perfect that which is lacking in your faith?” Prayer is a means of strengthening others and helping them grow in their Christian life.
“Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much” (Jas 5:16). Prayer is healing. When a hurt is done or a fault made, confession and restoration are completed when finalized with prayer. Then healing can begin. Our prayers must be sincere and from the heart, not just from a sense of duty. “Fervent” is showing extremely passionate enthusiasm.
Patience is another necessary ingredient for maintaining closeness. I Thessalonians 5:14 tells us to “be patient toward all men.” Patience is being able to endure without becoming annoyed or upset. Not everyone has the same talents or abilities, or the same degree of understanding. Longsuffering and forbearing are synonyms of patience. It is not “putting up with” but rather accepting others’ differences. Others’ differences often provide different viewpoints when dealing with issues within the congregation. However, differences should always come to a peaceful conclusion. We must desire a peaceful relationship in our brotherhood.
Also from I Thessalonians 5:14, “support the weak.” There may be those who are easily offended. They may not have developed strong convictions yet. Do we take them into consideration? Or do we say in ourselves, “Just get over it”? Maybe “the weak” is someone who is going through a difficult time. The brotherhood should rally around them to lift them up, and give them encouragement. Those who are cast down need all the help we can give them. We must have time to listen to them, to share with them. Sometimes they need a helping hand. are we ready and willing? Or do we hope someone else will volunteer first, so we no longer have an obligation to do so?
Openness is necessary for close-knit relationships. We must share our struggles openly with others. It takes humility to admit that we have imperfections in our lives. For in doing so we admit that we need the help of others. This in turn will draw us closer.
The other side of openness is being open when someone comes to us with a concern. A wrong response is becoming defensive. We tend to think that we ourselves are pretty good—“I’m not that bad. Or we make excuses for what we did or thought. This is our natural response. an humble response is one that accepts the fact that we may have done wrong, or that we have imperfections in our lives. accepting help from others will strengthen us and help us grow in our Christian life.
Warm hospitality will keep a congregation close. Hospitality accepts others and makes others feel acceptance. “Let brotherly love continue. Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares” (Heb 13:1-2). Hospitality is a friendly, welcoming, and generous treatment to guests or strangers.
Our fellow brethren need to be our friends. Friends share their hearts. They don't hide from others inside a shell. They will be real with each other. It will be a mutual feeling to be free with each other. There is a high level of confidentiality with each other. There is a trust that will not be betrayed. Time spent with our brotherhood should be relaxing and up building. We will have a time of refreshing together.
“The more intimate communion we have with our fellow-Christians the more the soul prospers: Being knit together in love. Holy love knits the hearts of Christians one to another; and faith and love both contribute to our comfort. The stronger our faith is, and the warmer our love, the greater will our comfort be.”
~ Bernville, PA