As a teacher I definitely always used to tell kids, 'learning is best done in a group, with another person' - and saw over and over again that this was true. My kids always have more fun when they are together with other kids (or even, when their not tired!, together with each other). I'm sure my twins have taught each other loads of stuff and they give each other support and encouragement when they find things hard (although they can also be horrid to each other!) Children from families who talk and do things together invariably are more likely to flourish in life. But then it seems when we get to be adults we reject the obvious - that relationships help us flourish, grow and learn. Perhaps there are too many opportunities to be vulnerable and hurt when we 'do' relationships. They take time, they can be tricky and confusing.
Why do relationships seem to be the key to so many things? The Bible says it's because we are made in God's image, that as He is in relationship within the Trinity, we also flourish, find joy, grow and learn best when in relationship with others - and especially with Him. It's interesting that in the gospels we find Jesus with his friends the disciples - sending them out in twos. That the early apostles and evangelists travelled together in groups of two or more. One passage that shows just how much Paul thought relationships had to do with being a Christian and sharing Jesus with others is 1 Thessalonians 2 v 1-12. He talks about sharing the gospel of God, 'and also our own selves' - because of how dear these people had become to him.
Somehow our culture has made us independent people, who live separate lives to each other. We don't share our lives with other people - really. As Christians we talk about being a family, we might share a cup of tea with people at church on Sunday, we might meet for an hour on Wednesday to read the Bible - but we never let people come close to us, we never really let them see who we really are. We're scared they'll judge us or that it will be uncomfortable to allow people access into everyday life - but in reality we are severely limiting what God does in us - and in other people!
God made us relational beings, He wants us to live life with others, honestly, sacrificially and accountably. It is through other people living out the gospel in front of me that I have learnt most of all what being a Christian means. It is through other people living out the gospel with me that I have grown to know God more, trust Him more, serve Him more and been humbled more. And I hope that through living out the gospel in front of others - loving and serving others day in and day out that others will grow to understand the gospel and love God better.
(With thanks to Tim Chester and Steve Timmis' book 'Gospel Centred Church' which has provoked many challenging conversations!)