Two by two

The basic relationship in the church is the "pair". I am told that in Israel a disciple studying under a master was always given a study partner to work with. They would help each other in their studies. Jesus took this practice and developed it further among his disciples.

We all know that Jesus called twelve disciples. However, we have missed the fact that he also combined them together in pairs. In Matt 10:2-4 the twelve disciples are listed in pairs. They are still listed in pairs in Acts 1:13 (although they are different). When Jesus sent the twelve out to preach the gospel, he sent them in pairs (Mark 6:7). In fact, whenever he sent any of them to do anything significant, they went in a pair. Two disciples went to find the donkey for Palm Sunday (Luke 19:29). He sent Peter and John together to prepare for the Passover (Luke 22:8). Prior to becoming disciples Peter and John had worked as pairs with their brothers Andrew and James. Jesus put special effort into teaching them to function as a pair. (He knew that James and John could not continue as partners because James would be martyred (Acts 12:2). They went up the Mount of Transfiguration together (Matt 17:1). Jesus left them to pray together at Gethsemane (Matt 26:37). Peter and John continued to work together as a pair after Jesus died (John 20:2,3; Acts 3:1,4:1,13)

Further examination of the Scriptures reveals key men of God working together in pairs.

There is an important principle here. Every Christian should be part of a pair. They should have another Christian who is their partner. When a person becomes a Christian and joins a church, they should be matched up with another person to form a pair. Even mature Christians and church leaders should be in a pair with another Christian. The pair is the basic unit of the church. Every Christian should be a member of a pair.

Sometimes a Christian will be a member of more than one pair. For example, Peter was in a pair with Andrew, his brother. He was also in a pair with John, while John was also in a pair with James. Some people may belong to two or three pairs, but it would be hard to function properly in more than about three pairs.

Over time the pairs may change; for example, Thomas started with Matthew, (Matt 10:2) but finished in a pair with Philip (Acts 1:13). We do not know the story behind this, but the Holy Spirit had a purpose in changing the way the pairs worked together.

Power Pairs

Let me explain how a pair works.

Many soldiers, who fought together in a war, have learnt the importance of being part of a pair. They would often become mates, who watched out for each other. They would do everything together. Surviving an intense battle together would strengthen the bond between them. This provides a good example for Christians to follow.

Developing Pairs

This type of relationship between two Christians will not easily develop in a church. At a typical worship service, a Christian will speak to a couple of people before the service and perhaps two or three after the service. Quite likely a different set of people will be spoken to each week. This type of contact cannot produce the type of relationships that developed between Jesus disciples.

Perhaps more surprising, this type of relationship will not even develop easily in a typical homegroup. A homegroup focuses on getting all the members of the group relating to each other. However, this type of relationship is usually more shallow than is required for a pair.

A body is not built by joining every part to every other part. Rather it is built by every part being totally joined with the part of the body that is next to it. If the foot was lightly joined to the eye, the hand, the head and the backside, the body could not function. The foot must be perfectly joined to the leg, to fulfil its function. When the foot is fully joined to the leg and they function as a pair. The connection to the leg is more important than the relationship with any other part of the body. Accordingly, it is more important for a Christian to have a strong relationship with one other Christian, than to get to know all the members of a home group.

The development of the relationship between a "pair" of Christians will require them to spend a significant amount of time together. The depth of sharing that is needed for a pair to be strong will not occur in a large group. These relationships will more likely develop in more informal settings. It may be meeting for a cup of coffee; or going out to share the gospel together; or watching a game of rugby together. There may be times when they meet specifically for prayer together, but these may be at any place or time that is convenient. The pair-building contact will often take place over the telephone. Commitment is more important than proximity. The reason most church relationships are so weak is lack of commitment, not lack of proximity.

The best way for two men to become a pair is to work on a task together. The tougher the task, the stronger the relationship will be. Preaching the gospel together or some activity where they confront evil together will really strengthen the pair. That is why Jesus sent his disciples out two by two. For women, pairs will be established more by talking and providing emotional support for each other. I suspect that women find it easier to be a member of more than one pair than men do.

Other Relationships

Every church member should be a part of a pair. This is the basic relationship in the church. However, there will be a number of other important relationships as well.

Spiritual Protection

Pairs provides good spiritual protection (see Personal Protection).

We face two dangers: sin and Satan. This model provides two levels of protection against each. If the friend (pair) fails, there are elders watching who can step in

Circular Relationships

The relationships in the church should be circular. The "One Another Stuff" is more important than the "Submission Stuff". Most of it will take place within pairs.

In contrast, in the conventional church, all the links go through the centre.

Special Anointing

Matthew 18:20 is a very well known verse; it is quoted frequently. Yet we have failed to notice what Jesus was really saying.

Where two or three come together in my name,
there am I in the midst of them.

We take this to mean that Jesus is present wherever his people are meeting. In the holidays when a lot of people are away from our services, this verse encourages us that He will still be present. We also treat "two or three" as a quorum, the minimum number that must be present for a meeting to be legitimate. These things are true, but it is not what Jesus is saying in this verse.

We miss the point, because in our hearts we really believe that Jesus presence is greatest in a really large meeting. One hundred is good, but a thousand is better. However, this is not true. Big meetings have their place, but they are not necessarily better. Actually, the opposite is true. The power of the Holy Spirit does not get divided up between Christians, so it is not multiplied if more Christians are present. In fact, because there is likely to be less unity in a large group, his power will be diminished. On the other hand, one person alone is not enough, because there is no unity.

In Matthew 18:20, Jesus is saying that "two or three" is best. He is saying that when two or three Christians are working together for him in unity, his Spirit will be with them in all his fullness. They have the total power of God. Therefore, two or three people moving in the power of the Spirit is as good as it gets. If we really want to know the presence of Jesus, we must get together in twos or threes. This is why pairs are so important. By not understanding the importance of pairs, we have been missing out on the blessing that Jesus promised.

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