Saturday, March 23, 2013

The Purpose Driven Life - Day 18

Day 18 - Experiencing Life Together

"For where two of three are gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst." - God

Today we begin to delve deeper into Small Groups or Home Groups and what a fellowship truly means.  Jesus led by example with His own small group of disciples. Surely He could have had as many members as He desired but knew that developing true and meaningful relationships with more than 12 would be difficult.  Pastor Rick advises even going smaller than that - perhaps to a group of about 8 is good.  Any more than 8 - or certainly 12 - then the shy in the group begin to fade into the background and one or two stronger members will end up taking over.  There will be no balance in the fellowship.

This chapter identifies the differences between real and fake fellowship.  In real fellowship authenticity is present. There is no showboating. No posturing. It is pure. Honest. Relational. Members of the group ultimately should know one another intimately - truths of self should be shared. Each member should remove the masks that we often wear in society and be honest about our situations. How we are feeling - what doubts we might have. What struggles we are facing.  This is an opportunity for the members to support one another.  A group should be a safe place to fall.

There also should exist mutuality. The sharing of faith. Being able to lean on the members of your group when your faith is being tested.  Surely it is easier to stay the course when you do not walk alone.  As traveling by yourself makes easy to give way to temptation.  For hardships to sway your faith. Your group members are there to hold you up and you are to hold them up when necessity demands. 

Offering sympathy to group members, not with placating words, but with genuine emotion. Sharing in the pain, grief or suffering that your group member is experiencing is to give sympathy.  

Pastor Rick outlines three levels of fellowship in this chapter. I will transcribe them here only because he has spoken of them in sermons, and therefore the information is already out there to those who wish to seek it. 

" There are different levels of fellowship, and each is appropriate at different times. The simplest levels of fellowship are the fellowship of sharing and the fellowship of studying God's Word together. A deeper level is the fellowship of serving, as when we minister together on mission trips or mercy projects. The deepest, most intense level is the fellowship of mercy where we enter into each other's pain and grief and carry each other's burdens."

Through the fellowship of mercy, a place is created where there is no judgment, no grudges, mistakes are forgiven, and people are allowed to grow - as we all know, we all fall, we all err, this is how we evolve.  The same is true in our quest to spiritual maturity.  Again, your small group is there to support you. To help you and to pick you up when you stumble.

The Bible says: "You must make allowances for each other's faults and forgive the person who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others."

This chapter ends with Pastor Rick asking: "I hope this chapter has made you hunger to experience the authenticity, mutuality, sympathy and mercy of real fellowship."

I have to admit that this chapter did touch me. It did make me hunger to that soft place to fall. To be in fellowship with strong, loving, supportive, faithful people, with whom I can learn, grow, and develop my faith, purpose and ministry.  And as I have been exploring a local church with small groups - I do hope to be in a  fellowship very soon.

"Share each others' troubles and problems, and in this way obey the law of Christ." - Galatians 6:2 (NLT)