For years, I falsely thought that attending a church service would transform me. Yes, there is power in a church service. But there are also certain benefits that the Bible reserves for authentic fellowship and confession.
For example, Biblical healing is often preceded by “confession of sin” and prayer with “righteous people”according to James 5:16. For years, I went to church and lacked healing in certain areas of my life. When I came upon this verse, I realized, part of the reason I lacked the power to overcome certain temptations was simply because I never actually obeyed James 5:16.
Or, 1 John 1:7 says that the “blood of Christ purifies us,” when we “live in the light as [God] is in the light.” In other words, many of us expect the blood of Christ to work in us without us living in the light. I.e., we want the power without the process: we want victory without vulnerability. But God loves us too much to allow us to think this way. That’s why he purposefully doesn’t heal certain things in our lives until we learn how to “devote ourselves to fellowship” (Acts 2:42).
We like to think that we can overcome sin on our own. Or sometimes, we hate the idea of humiliating ourselves by confessing things; or, we don’t want to put in the time it takes to cultivate authentic relationships. So, instead of pressing through to God’s promises, we suddenly hope that a church service experience will suddenly be a good substitute for God’s commands. After all, it’s a “spiritual activity” right?
But at some point, we’re going to press through onto true Biblical fellowship? And what does that look like? Well, allow me to explain that with a simple little acronym called S.P.A.C.E.
“S.P.A.C.E.” is a simple little word that represents 5 important aspects of Biblical fellowship. Of course, we probably could have picked 12 themes; but, to keep it simple, we focused on the following five ingredients: “Same gender, Prayer, Accountability, and Confession with people of Equal passion.”
S = Same Gender: 2 Sam.1:26 (like David & Jonathan) Prov.27:17 (men sharpening men)
P = Prayer James 5:15, 16b; Luke 11:5-11; 18:1
A= Accountability: I.e., challenging you; setting goals! Prv.27:17
C= Confession: James 5:16; 1 Jn.1:9; Mt.6:14-15
E= Equally Yoked in Passion: Prov.13:20; 1 Cor. 15:33; 2 Cor.6:14ff
Of course, in a second, I’m going to break this down a bit more; but, I often say to people: If you aren’t experiencing all five ingredients of “S.P.A.C.E.” at least once every three weeks, then you’re probably missing God’s best for you. I’ve seen many churches define membership strictly in terms of doctrine and giving; but, at Substance, we define membership as a “delightful and ongoing experience of S.P.A.C.E. within our community.” i.e., Despite the size, format, or theological emphasis of the given program, our ultimate goal is S.P.A.C.E. Everything in our church is a slippery creek bank into a SPACE experience.
The Prayer and Accountability part of this acronym are self-explanatory. But allow me to unpack the other three ingredients a little more. By “Same-Gender”, we’re merely referring to the idea that, there are many sin-issues that are easier to tackle along-side Christians of the same gender. Ultimately, if you’re married, we want you to have amazing spiritual conversations with your spouse; yet, what if your spiritual problem is your marriage. Or, what if your sin problem affects your marriage in a complicated way?
For example, most women don’t want their husbands holding them accountable for their weight. In my family, if I said: “Hey honey… how ‘bout you eat those carrots instead?” …it just wouldn’t fly! And guys, most of us don’t want to have our wives nagging us for not being romantic enough… or for not being a good enough father. You see, there are certain challenges that are just easier to take from a small group of “same-gender” friends. And because I have numerous friends like this, it removes a tremendous burden off of my marriage.
When we talk about confession, however, I’m not talking about some Catholic-styled “tell-your-sins-to-the-leader” type of experience. And, frankly, I don’t want to see more of your dirty underwear. (I love you; but, I believe God has a better plan – for both of us). More specifically, I’m talking about finding a tight group of safe and comfortable friends with whom you can be brutally honest. Most Christians like to see confession as something we do between ourselves and God during some private worship moment – a “vertically oriented” confession. But almost every time the Bible mentions confession in the New Testament it’s couched in the context of fellowshipping with other people (see James 5:16). I.e., it’s “horizontal” confession. In fact, it’s this very life-style of honesty that makes us “children of the light” (1 Jn.1:7-9).
However, this type of honesty and vulnerability makes a lot of people nervous (and understandably so). It’s hard to find safe and mature people who can “handle” a confession. And even when you find these friends, it’s still downright humbling to share some of those idiotic habits of your private life. And if you or your church suffers with any level of legalism or politics, then confession feels more like a death wish than a liberating God-opportunity. So, obviously, use caution!
And that’s where the last letter of the “S.P.A.C.E.” acronym comes into play. The “Equally Yoked in Passion” part simply refers to the idea that you can’t just fellowship with anyone (2 Cor. 6:14). For example, you don’t want to confess your sins to “joe-big-mouth”. A confession is a sacred trust. And if you’re trying to do this with insecure, legalistic, or political Christians, you probably won’t get good results. Hence, it’s important to find other safe Christians who are running towards Christ in the same way that you are.
Keep in mind, it can take awhile to generate this type of intimacy. Many people take this acronym a step further by starting a “SPACE group” that meets around certain purposes. If this is something you’re interested in, feel free to read a pdf guide on “How to Do SPACE” as a group: SPACE-a guide-Abridged4Blog. But the gist is this: If you can live out your spiritual life with this level of authenticity, then I guarantee that you’re going to have an amazing amount of additional power in your life – not just the power of friends but the power of God as well.