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The Healing Power of Small Groups

We need friendship, and friendship happens on purpose

As a mental health therapist and pastor, I am frequently shocked at how psychology thinks it’s discovered a mystery of human functioning when all along these “mysteries” are found in Scripture. Case in point: our need for relationships. Writing for Psychology Today, Hara Estroff Marano reports the following:

“Friendship is a lot like food. We need it to survive. What is more, we seem to have a basic drive for it. Psychologists find that human beings have a fundamental need for inclusion in group life and for close relationships. We are truly social animals.

“The upshot is, we function best when this social need is met. It is easier to stay motivated, to meet the varied challenges of life.

“In fact, evidence has been growing that when our need for social relationships is not met, we fall apart mentally and even physically. There are effects on the brain and on the body. Some effects work subtly, through the exposure of multiple body systems to excess amounts of stress hormones. Yet the effects are distinct enough to be measured over time, so that unmet social needs take a serious toll on health, eroding our arteries, creating high blood pressure, and even undermining learning and memory.”

So if loneliness is one of mankind’s major maladies, how does a Christ follower combat loneliness and develop meaningful friendships? The Father’s heart is for his children to connect. Let’s look at God’s Word to see the importance of relationships:

  • Hebrews 10:25 says, “ And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.”
  • Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed.”
  • Genesis 2:18, “Then the Lord God said, ‘It is not good for the man to be alone.”
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:14, “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”
  • 1 Peter 4:7-9, “The end of the world is coming soon. Therefore, be earnest and disciplined in your prayers. Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay.”

Sadly, many Christians have the unhealthy and unrealistic expectation that attending church once a week with a room full of people, whether 250 or 2500, will automatically produce friends. When this doesn’t happen, people get their feelings hurt and hit the road, looking for another church. But how many of you know that you can feel the loneliest in a room full of people?

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