Community requires commitment. “You are joined together with peace through the Spirit, so make every effort to continue together in this way (Ephesian’s 4:3-5).” It takes both God’s power and our effort to produce a loving Christian community.
“If you’re tired of fake fellowship and would like to cultivate real fellowship and a loving community in your small group, Sunday school class, and church, you’ll need to make some tough choices and take some risks” Rick Warren
Cultivating community takes honesty.
You will have to care enough to lovingly speak the truth, even when you would rather ignore an issue. Not to say anything you want, wherever and whenever you want: the Bible tells us there is a right time and a right way to do everything. But many church fellowships and small groups remain superficial because they are afraid of conflict. Everyone knows about the problem, but no one talks about it openly.
Most people have no one in their lives who loves them enough to tell them the truth (even when its painful), so they continue in self destructive ways. Often, we know what to said to someone, but our fears prevent us from saying anything. 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.
The Bible tells us to speak the truth in love because we have community without candor. Solomon said. ” An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” Sometimes this means caring enough to lovingly confront one who is sinning or is being tempted to sin.
Cultivating community takes humility.
Self-importance, smugness, and stubborn pride destroy fellowship faster than anything else. Pride builds walls between people; humility builds bridges. Humility is the oil that smooths and soothes relationships. That’s why the bible says, “Cloth yourselves with humility toward one another” The proper dress for fellowship is a humble attitude. The rest of the verse says… because, God opposes the proud and gives grace to the humble. This is the other reason we need to be humble: Pride blocks God’s grace in our lives which, we must have in order to grow, change, heal and help others. We receive God’s grace by humbly admitting that we need it. The bible says anytime we are prideful, we are living in opposition to God. That is a foolish and dangerous way to live. You can develop humility in very practical ways: by admitting your weakness, by being open to correction, and by pointing the spotlight on others, Paul advises, “live in harmony with each other, don’t try to act important, but enjoy the company of ordinary people. And don’t think you know it all”!
Cultivating community takes courtesy.
Courtesy is respecting our differences, being considerate of each other’s feelings, and being patient with people who irritate us. Community has nothing to do with compatibility; the basis for our fellowship is our relationship to God. Real community happens when people know it is safe enough to share their doubts and fears without being judged. Our key to courtesy is to understand where people are coming from. Discover their history. When you know what they gave been through you will be more understanding. Instead of thinking how far they have to go, think about how far they have come in spite of their hurts. Another part of courtesy is not downplaying other people’s doubts Just because you don’t fear something doesn’t make it an invalid feeling. Real community happens when people know it is safe enough to share their doubts and fears without being judged.
Cultivating community takes confidentiality.
Only in the safe environment will people open up and share their deepest hurts, needs, and mistakes. It means that what is shared in your group needs to stay in your group, and the group needs to deal with it, not gossip to others about it.
God hates gossip especially when it’s disguised as a prayer request for someone else. God says, gossip is spread by the wicked; they stir up trouble and breakup friendships. Gossip always causes hurt and divisions, and it destroys fellowship and God is very clear that we are to confront those who cause division amongst Christians. They may get mad and leave your group or church if you confront them about their divisive actions. but The fellowship of the church is more important than any individual
Cultivating community takes frequency.
You must have frequent, regular contact with your group in order to build genuine fellowship. Community is not built on convenience (“we’ll get together when I feel like it”) but on the conviction that you need it for spiritual health. Relationships require an investment of time. This is why fellowship is so shallow in many churches; we don’t spend enough time together, and the time we do spend is usually listening to one person speak.
They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42NEw english trabslation
Community is not built on convenience, but on the conviction that I need it for spiritual health. If you want to cultivate real fellowship, it will mean meeting together even when you don’t feel like it, because you believe it is important. The first Christians meet together every day! They worshipped together regularly at the Temple each day meet in small groups in homes for Communion and shared their meals with great joy and thankfulness. Fellowship requires an investment of time. If you are a member of a small group or class, I urge you to make a group covenant that includes the nine 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). When you look at the list of characteristics it is obvious why genuine fellowship is so rare. It means giving up our self-centeredness and independence in order to become interdependent. But the benefit of sharing life together far outweigh the costs, and it will prepare us for heaven