Community requires commitment.
-Cultivating community takes honesty. Most people have no one in their lives who loves them enough to tell them the truth, so they continue in self-destructive ways. Many fellowships have been sabotaged by fear—No one had the courage to speak up in the group while a member’s life fell apart. Many church fellowships & small groups remain superficial because they are afraid of conflict. Paul’s solution: “No more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.”
When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other. “Never use harsh words when you correct an older man, but talk to him as if he were your father, younger men as if they were your brothers, older women as if they were your mothers, younger women as if they were your sisters”.
-Cultivating community takes humility. Humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
-Cultivating community takes courtesy. Courtesy is respecting our differences, being considerate of each other’s feelings & being patient with people who irritate us.
One key to courtesy is understanding where people are coming from—Discover their history. Think about how far they have come in spite of their hurts. Another part of courtesy is not downplaying other people’s doubts. Real community happens when people know it’s safe enough to share their doubts & fears w/o being judged.
-Cultivating community takes confidentiality. What is shared in the group stays in the group, and the group deals with it, not gossip to others about it.
-Cultivating community takes frequency. We have to spend a lot of time with people to build deep relationships. Community is not built on convenience but on the conviction that we need it for spiritual health. Fellowship requires an investment of time.
Warren urges us, if we are members of a small group or class, to make a group covenant that includes the 9 characteristics of biblical fellowship: We will share our true feelings (authenticity), encourage each other (mutuality), support each other (sympathy), forgive each other (mercy), speak the truth in love (honesty), admit our weaknesses (humility), respect our differences (courtesy), not gossip (confidentiality), and make group a priority (frequency). It means giving up our self-centeredness and independence in order to become interdependent. But the benefits of sharing life together far outweigh the costs, & it prepares us for heaven.
Question to consider: How can I help cultivate today the characteristics of real community in my small group and my church? I can work on courtesy & patience towards the people who irritate me, by taking the time to understand their history. I recognize I must also invest more of my time to our small group in church.
* 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.