God made an incredible promise: “For where 2 or 3 have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.”
Real fellowship is more than attending church services, its experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting. Every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within their church, whether a Sunday school class or Bible study.
This is where real community takes place, not in the big gatherings. Warren likens the church as a ship, with the small groups as lifeboats attached to it.
-In real fellowship people experience authenticity. It happens when people get honest about who they are & what is happening in their lives—disclose doubts, admit fears, acknowledge weaknesses, confess failures, ask for help & prayer. Unfortunately, an atmosphere of honesty & humility are lacking in some of our churches; people wear masks, keep their guards up & act as if everything is rosy in their lives. Why would anyone take the risk of being authentic, which requires both courage & humility? Because it’s the only way to grow spiritually & be emotionally healthy.
-In real fellowship people experience mutuality. Mutuality is the art of giving & receiving—building reciprocal relationships, sharing responsibilities, helping each other. All of us are more consistent in our faith when others walk with us & encourage us. We aren’t responsible for everyone in the Body of Christ, but we are responsible to them—God expects us to do whatever we can to help them.
-In real fellowship people experience sympathy. Sympathy is entering in & sharing the pain of others. Sympathy meets 2 needs—the need to be understood & the need to have your feelings validated. Every time we understand & affirm someone’s feelings, we build fellowship. Warren shows us different levels of fellowship: the simplest is the fellowship of sharing & fellowship of studying God’s word together. A deeper level is the fellowship of serving, as when one ministers on mission trips or mercy projects. The deepest is the fellowship of suffering, where we enter into each other’s pain & grief & carry each other’s burdens. Those who understand this level best are those being persecuted, despised & often martyred for their faith.
Warren: “It is in the times of deep crisis, grief & doubt that we need each other the most. When circumstances crush us to the point that our faith falters, that’s when we need believing friends the most. We need a small group of friends to have faith in God for us & to pull us through. In a small group, the Body of Christ is REAL & TANGIBLE even when God seems distant.”
-In real fellowship people experience mercy. We all need mercy, because we all stumble & fall & require help getting back on track. We need to offer mercy to each other & be willing to receive it from each other. We can’t have fellowship w/o forgiveness. “Never hold grudges” because bitterness & resentment always destroy fellowship. “You must make allowances for each other’s faults & forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.”
Whenever we are hurt by someone, we have a choice: Will I use my energy & emotions for retaliation or resolution? Many are reluctant to show mercy because we can’t understand the difference between forgiveness & trust. Forgiveness is letting go of the past, trust has to do with future behavior. Forgiveness must be immediate, whether the person asks for it or not. Trust is rebuilt over time.
Warren hopes that this Day has made us hungry to experience the authenticity, mutuality, sympathy & mercy of real fellowship. We were created for community.
Question to consider: What one step can I take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine, heart-to-heart level?
* We will be writing about what inspires us from each consecutive chapter of Warren’s Purpose Driven Life. If you read along with us, please share your inspirations. There’s no need to catch up, just jump right in.