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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Day 18: Fellowship

This chapter gets down to the nitty-gritty of fellowship. Its not just about attending church services, you need to participate in the church community.

This is done by breaking up into small groups because when groups get too large, people stop participating. I have recently experienced this myself with the local mothers club group. There were 20 people invited to join the group with the local maternal and child health nurse giving a presentation each week. After this, the idea was for the group to continue on its own. But I have quietly slipped away because there were too many people involved and I didn't feel comfortable dealing with such a large group. In the end I thought "I have lots of friends and not enough time to do all the things I want to do, so why am I wasting time with this group." I'm not sure that anyone has noticed that I'm gone as I still get group emails.

Just attending church services can be like this too. You could feel that if you didn't turn up no-one would notice you were gone. But in a small group you have the opportunity to build greater bonds.

The book identifies four benefits of being part of a small group within your church:
  • authentic relationships with others,
  • helping each other out,
  • understanding and having your feelings validated, and
  • mercy - forgiveness of sins.
In relation to this last point, Rick Warren makes the point that forgiveness and trust are not the same thing. You forgive people for what they have done in the past, but that does not mean you must instantly trust them to do the right thing in future or place yourself in danger of being hurt again. Instead the person you forgive must rebuild your trust.

I think this applies to entering a small group as well, which Rick Warren doesn't appear to acknowledge. Obviously, you can't just rock up to a bible study class and instantly expect to experience the benefits listed above, but I can see how these would develop over time if you made the committment to keep attending.

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