The term ‘one-another’ is not an infrequent term in the NT, occurring some 100 times from the ‘love one another, encourage one another, admonish one another’ to the ‘confess your sins to one another’. We are to do good to all, especially those of the household of faith, so the corporate, mutually-beneficial aspect of the body is clear. There is a clear purpose of being there for one another.
If we start with a fixed view – as I was once told ‘the right way to do church’ – then we are likely to assume that the body of Christ is to meet on such and such a time and a service / meeting is to follow that will take a certain shape. If we hold to a sacramental or a protestant-word view this will most likely be our belief. However, if we consider that the Spirit’s activity is determinative we will probably be more flexible. Beyond that we can critique the oft-assumed identification of the ‘local’ church with the church in the locality that we read of in the NT letters, and we could also consider the contingent (incarnational) nature of church. It has to fit where it is situated.
Laying on one side ‘the right way of doing it’ we have to consider the desired outcome, that of enabling one another to move toward becoming who we were meant to be. With the insights of Fowler (stages of faith) we need also acknowledge the limitations of church structure where it facilitates those who are growing through to stage 3, but resists those who are continuing to grow. We do not have to be offended by that nor surprised, even Jesus spoke how there had to be some changes, and a very radical one at that, with his absence being key to the growth stage the disciples needed to embrace.
Discipleship, as per Jesus, was time-limited. Discipleship was never to hold people in a level of dependency. Perhaps by default some of the approach within the new models of church have a tendency in that direction. And further, in setting out where I am headed in the third post, a helping one another to be good church members will almost certainly prevent the third element taking place – the church here for the world. It will also fail to live up to the element I began with – the church here for God.
Over the years I have grown to deeply appreciate the ‘service’ offered by the parish churches in England. Consistently present to offer support, but not looking to own.
In being here for one another, we will find that there are specific ‘one anothers’ that we connect with. This might not be static, but will be marked by those who help us stay on track. Our interaction with them could be regular but should be important. The challenges appear when we simply look at who is there for us so that we can mature, without considering who we are there for to help them mature. In that we might err, but I do not consider that a structure should be the determining factor. The body of Christ can be found inside some very tight structures and also outside any visible structure, but regardless of where it is found it is here to be released, and released for a purpose, to be here for God, who has commissioned the church to be present in the world, his Son praying that his disciples would not be taken out of that world.
So the ‘here for one another’ is rightly wedged between the ‘here for God’ and ‘here for the world’. If the ‘one another’ aspect facilitates that we might be doing something right. If it does not, no appeal to the ‘right way’ will suffice.