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.
- Moses and Aaron
- David and Nathan
- Jeremiah and Baruch
- John the Baptist sent two disciples to Jesus (Matt 11:2)
- The seventy were sent out two by two (Luke 10:1)
- Paul and Barnabas (Acts 9:27)
- Paul and Silas (Acts 15:40)
- Two disciples were on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24:13)
- Paul sent Timothy and Erastus together to Macedonia (Acts 19:22)
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.
Let me explain how a pair works.
They will study the scriptures together. Jesus has promised that where two seek him together, he will be with them (Matt 18:20).
They will pray together. Jesus has promised that when two christians pray together in unity, God will do what they have asked. Whatever they bind in heaven will be bound on earth. Whatever they loose in heaven will be loosed on earth. Matthew 18:18,19. We have lost a large part of the power of prayer, because too many people are praying alone.
They will serve the Lord together. Two men who trust each other will achieve far more together, than they can achieve separately. If John had got out of the boat with Peter, he may have kept on walking. After Pentecost Peter and John healed the man at the beautiful gate, and then boldly confronted the authorities (Acts 3,4). This is the difference when two people work together.
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work (Ecc 4:9).
When christians are sent out into a new work, they should be sent out in pairs. I do not mean a married couple. If a man is married, he should be sent out with another man or another couple. When Jesus sent his disciples out, to preach the gospel, he sent them out in pairs. He knew they would spur each other on. Together they would have confidence to try things they would not normally do. Too many christians are ineffective because they are trying to serve God on their own. They would achieve more if they were part of a pair. When Paul had a disagreement with Barnabas, he did not go out again till he had found Silas to work with. And Barnabas went out with Mark.
When young people travel overseas for a vacation, they tend to go in pairs. This gives them confidence to go to new places and to do things they have not done before. Yet when the church sends out missionaries, it usually sends them out alone. They are often sent into spiritually hostile environments and expected to be victorious. This does not make sense.
The pair of christians will provide spiritual support for each other. If one is under spiritual pressure the other will pray for him.
If one falls down his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up (Ecc 4:10).
There is real spiritual protection when two people support each other. When a christian is under spiritual attack, he is in a much better position if he has someone to stand with him.
Though one may be overpowered two can defend themselves (Ecc 4:12).
One reason that the church is so weak is that too many christians are standing against evil alone and there is no one to provide support when they are under attack.
When King Saul fell into sin, his friend Samuel cried out to God all night (1 Sam15:11). That is the type of friend that we all need.
A pair of christians who are committed to the Lord will stir each other along.
If two lie down together they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone (Ecc 4:11).
If Peter had taken John into the courtyard with him, he may not have denied Jesus.
The power of the pair will help prevent christians falling into sin. If one is making a mistake, the other will be able to correct him. We all need someone who really cares about us, who knows us well enough to recognise our failings, who can challenge us if we stray from the path or get "too big for our boots". We each need some one who will challenge us from time to time. It must be someone trusted totally, so that they will be listened to. They must be close enough so that they can see through any pretence or mask.
When King David fell into adultery, his friend came and confronted him (II Samuel 11,12). This is a good example of a pair in operation.
In recent years a large number of christian leaders have fallen from grace. One reason is that they have become isolated from people who are close enough to challenge them, when they made their first mistake.
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.
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 home group. A home group 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.
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.
Every member should relate to a more mature christian. The more mature christian will disciple the newer christian. Often a pair of christians will be discipled together. In addition to building a relationship with God, they will be taught to relate to each other.
Every christian should have a relationship with one of the elders in the church, usually one of the pastors. (These young prophets may relate more to the prophetic elder, similarly the young evangelists may relate more to the evangelist).
Each christian should have a relationship with a prophetic elder. This will ensure that correction and direction will be available when required.
The elders should have strong relationships with each other.
Some of the elders will be pairs.
Pairs provides good spiritual protection (see Personal Protection).
Each christian has someone to stand with them against evil attack.
They have a friend to challenge them if they take a wrong turn.
They have a pastor/elder to help them overcome besetting sin.
They have a prophet to warn against deception.
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
The relationships in the church should be circular. The "One Another Stuff" is more important than the "Submission Stuff". Most if it will take place within pairs.
In contrast, in the conventional church, all the links go through the centre.
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 the 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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