I need to belong not only to a church but also to a small group within the church. Life is meant to be shared and it is best shared with a small group of dedicated friends with whom I can experience true fellowship. The ultimate model for a small group is Jesus’ twelve disciples. He realized that a group that is much bigger than that causes people to shut down. Warren gives several pointers as to what is true fellowship:
- In real fellowship people experience authenticity. Real fellowship is sharing authentic feelings, thoughts and concerns. It is being willing to make oneself vulnerable. True intimacy as Christians can only occur where there is transparency.
- In real fellowship people experience mutuality. Mututality involves both giving and receiving. In true fellowship I will give of myself and expect to receive from others. This may involve accountability, encouragement, serving and honoring.
- In real fellowship people experience sympathy. Sympathy is sharing in the pain of others. In true fellowship I will feel the pain of those I fellowship with. In the darkest, worst days of my life I will have the assurance that others will be there for me, to help me and to stand by me.
- In real fellowship people expect mercy. In true fellowship I need to offer and receive mercy. I need to be willing to be merciful to others, realizing that my faults are as great as theirs’. I will never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has already forgiven me.
The chapter closes with a discussion of the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is a must. I am required to forgive those who hurt me and to do so immediately and unconditionally. Trust, on the other hand, needs to be earned. I do not need to trust people as soon as I forgive them.
Warren quotes the Bible fourteen times using nine translations and paraphrases. On the whole the passages are quoted with reasonable accuracy and used in their proper context. The Message’s version of James 5:16 offers more than the literal translation and the same is true for 1 Corinthians 12:25. He also quotes Colossians 3:13 twice in the same paragraph using different translations which present different meanings.
Point to Ponder
Today’s point to ponder is “I need others in my life.” This is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. Prior to coming to my current church I had never experienced a small group. I had heard of Sunday schools and Bible studies, but never the concept of a home church. In our church that involves a group of about six to twelve people meeting once a week to study the Bible and fellowship with eachother. It is where the heart of the church’s ministry really happens. Having experienced true fellowship like that, I cannot imagine going without. My home church is my life blood. It is a time to share what has happened in the past week. It is a time to share trials and hardships as well as praise and thanksgiving. It is a time to have others share in my Christian walk and to share in the walks of others. To me it should be an indispensable part of any church. In many ways I believe attendance at a small group to be equally or even more important than attendance at weekly church services! Rick Warren has had a great influence on the modern church and I believe that the emphasis on small groups may be his greatest contribution.
I am eighteen days into The Purpose Driven Life and am finding that last two days the best part of the experience thus far. I am looking forward to continuing the journey.
Tomorrow’s topic is Cultivating Community