Intimacy. Transparency. Vulnerability.
Are these scary sounding words to you? Perhaps they are, especially if you are a man. Our society simply does not put high priority on these values. But this is changing, I think. My generation (I'm a late Boomer) is much more open to being open with our feelings than my parents' generation was. But still, it is not easy to be totally transparent with one another.
Why is this? What are we so afraid of? Can we take off our masks in the church and be real with one another? I have lots of questions about this—and few answers. But one thing I know. We can't build real Christian community without transparency and intimacy.
The best place for intimacy to happen, of course, is in small groups. Sociologists say that the smaller the group, the more intimate and transparent people can be. This just makes sense.
Sociologist Lewis Cosar says,
In small groups, members typically have a chance to interact directly with one another; once the group exceeds a relatively limited size, such interaction must be mediated through formal arrangements. …
The smaller group, the greater the involvement of its members, for the interaction among a few tends to be more intense than interaction among many, if only because of the greater frequency of contact. Inversely, the larger the group, the weaker the participation of its members; chances are high that they will be involved with only a segment of their personalities instead of a whole human being.
Another sociologist, Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), wrote about what he calls "primary groups." He describes these groups as:
those characterized by intimate, face-to-face association and cooperation. They are primary in several senses but chiefly in that ...