18 days down, 22 days to go!
Today’s chapter is called, “Experiencing Life Together,” and it is focused on the importance of building fellowship relationships with other believers. Like with many words that are common to the church vocabulary, Rev. Warren sheds some wisdom of original definitions around the idea of fellowship. Basically, this is not your mother’s fellowship, lol.
This whole chapter is about fellowship: what it means, what it looks like and how you can participate in it and receive it.
What Fellowship Means
Real Fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services. It is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other “one another” commands found in the New Testament.
Rev. Warren also shares here the importance of size when it comes to fellowship. He says smaller groups are better in this case as when a group exceeds a certain number someone will check out and I have experienced this from both ends. I have been a person to check out of a group because its too big and I have been a person that dominates a group probably causing others to check out especially in a larger group setting. I’ve gotten better with the latter but I also have days where I just say, “if no one else will talk. I will.”
What Fellowship Looks Like
It is only as we become open about our lives that we experience real fellowship…Of course, being authentic requires both courage and humility It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt again. Why would anyone take such a risk? Because it is the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy. The Bible says, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed [James 5:16a MSG].” We only grow by taking risks, and the most difficult risk of all is to be honest with ourselves and with others [Emphasis mine].
Wow re-reading the passage from the book above made me think in a new way. As much as I like fellowship and as much as I desire fellowship, it is in the risk taking of fellowship that I need to work on the most. I have gotten a lot better with this in the last year as I actively pursued safe spaces and people I could fellowship with. In one such case, it has really worked out well as I found a group of believers that I like and love and like growing in Christ with. Also, when I had a birthday/I took a comp exam and lived to tell about it party I decided to invite this group to come out, something that scared and worried me. But you know what, they came out in numbers and I had a better time because they were there. It was also a confirmation of the benefits of taking a risk, I stepped beyond my fear and I gained a fellowship group that I can connect with and get support from as I move forward in my spiritual walk and my academic walk.
All this to say –> push through fear and a benefit better than what fear could imagine is on the other side.
How Do You Participate in and Receive Fellowship
Also in this chapter is a discussion about how real fellowship has sympathy and mercy.
Sympathy meets two fundamental human needs: the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated…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 suffering, where we enter into each other’s pain and grief and carry each other’s burdens.
At the simplest level, to participate in fellowship means that you help others around you to just help them not for any particular gain. However, the beauty of this is that when you enter into an authentic fellowship relationship, you gain in receiving fellowship as your relationship with individuals grows; it is the ultimate win-win situation. It is important to mention, like I mentioned yesterday in relation to the church, people are not perfect and people will fail you so it is important that you forgive people in fellowship relationships as at some point more often than not they will upset you or fail you in some way. Rev. Warren shares:
Many people are relcutant to show mercy because they don’t understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do wtih future behavior. Forgivingness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record. If someone hurts you repeatedly, you are commanded by God to forgive them instantly, but you are not expected to trust them immediately, and you are not expected to continue allowing them to hurt you. They must prove they have changed over time. The best place to restore trust is within the supportive context of a small group that offers both encouragement and accountability [Empahsis mine].
A few years back, a new friend hurt me bad and she lost my trust and respect. It took me time to forgive her but if I had known the above information maybe I could have saved myself a lot of time and stress as maybe I would have been able to forgive her sooner and deal with the fact that I didn’t trust her and figuring out when I would be open to allowing her to rebuild that trust (yay counterfactuals!). I collapsed forgiveness and trust in this case and other cases too. Speaking of cases, I still have one more situation where I can apply this too and I am thankful that Rev. Warren is talking about this as it has definitely helped me and I pray it helps others.
Today’s Q2C is, “What one step can I take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine, heart-to-heart level?”
I would say I can reach out to a friend that I started a prayer circle with and see if she wants to re-start it. Basically, we would send a few things at the beginning of the week that we wanted prayer about and we committed to praying about those things for the other person…I guess I have my assignment 🙂
I pray that you were blessed by today’s post and I pray that you continue to or begin to work on creating authentic fellowship relationships 🙂