Only the Holy Spirit can create real fellowship between believers. It takes both God's power and our effort to produce a loving community of believers. Unfortunately, many people grow up in families with unhealthy relationships, so they lack the relational skills needed for real fellowship.
CULTIVATING COMMUNITY TAKES HONESTY
While it is much easier to remain silent when others around us are harming themselves or others with a sinful pattern, it is not the loving thing to do. Many fellowships have been sabotaged by fear - no one had the courage to speak up in the group while a member's life falls apart. Many church fellowships and small groups remain superficial because they are afraid of conflict.
Real fellowship; whether in a marriage, a friendship, or in a church; depends on frankness. Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other. The Bible tells us that there is a right time and a right way to do everything. "Better devastation and embarrassment than damnation" it says.
CULTIVATING COMMUNITY TAKES HUMILITY
Pride builds walls between people; humility builds bridges. We receive God's grace by humbly admitting that we need it. We develop humility by admitting our weaknesses, by being patient with others' weaknesses, by being open to correction and by allowing others the limelight. 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 and being patient with people who irritate us. 'Difficult' persons usually have special emotional needs, deep insecurities, irritating mannerisms or poor social skills. God put these people in our midst for both their benefit and ours. In a family acceptance is based on the fact that we belong to each other, so it all is an opportunity for growth and a test of fellowship. We all have quirks and annoying traits. But community has nothing to do with compatibility. Real community happens when people know it is safe to share their doubts and fears without being judged.
CULTIVATING COMMUNITY TAKES CONFIDENTIALITY
People will open up in a safe environment of warm acceptance and trusted confidentiality and share their deepest hurts, needs and mistakes. Confidentiality does not mean keeping silent - it means what 'happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas'... God is very clear that we compelled to confront those who cause division among believers. They may get mad and take affront, and leave your group or church; but the fellowship of the church is more important than any individual.
CULTIVATING COMMUNITY TAKES FREQUENCY
We are to develop the habit of meeting together. You have to spend a lot of time to build deep relationships. Community isn't built on convenience but on the conviction that we need it for spiritual health. The first Christians met together every single day!
MAKE A GROUP COVENANT:
We will share our true feelings - authenticity
We will encourage each other - mutuality
We will support each other - sympathy
We will forgive each other - mercy
We will speak the truth - honesty
We will admit our weaknesses - humility
We will respect our differences - courtesy
We will not gossip - confidentiality
We will make the group a priority - frequency
It means giving up our self-centeredness; the benefits of sharing life together far outweigh any costs, and prepare us for Heaven. Much love ~ Stafford
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth.”