Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Fellowship and Community

Let’s see how inventive we can be in encouraging love and helping out, not avoiding worshiping together as some do but spurring each other on, especially as we see the big Day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25, The Message).

You might not think of gathering together with other people as a spiritual discipline, but it's a very important one. It's not that something is hard or unpleasant that makes it a discipline, but whether or not something is important, provides an indirect benefit, and is something we should be intentional about.

Glen Woods writes "Solitude and silence have long been touted for their benefits as spiritual disciplines. In the crowded, marginless West, there is still much merit to reclaiming their appropriate places in our lives. However, we would do well to learn community as spiritual discipline as well. Think of it this way. Whereas solitude calls for us to take time away from the crowds to pray, listen, worship, and communicate with God alone, community calls for us to be the presence of Christ among others. Solitude and community are both necessary; they also both tend to be either ignored, or receive out-of-balance focus."

He goes on to list five distinct benefits of intentionally pursuing community:
1. Learning to love your neighbor as yourself (yes, this especially includes your enemies).

2. Learning to practice the fruits of the spirit, realizing that others are showing forbearance to you even as you are attempting to do so for them.
3. Learning to give, not out of legalistic duty, but out of love.
4. Learning to become vulnerable, allowing others to speak into your life.
5. Refining your character is integral to the abovementioned points.

Accountability, not being a lone ranger in the faith, and having other people who can speak truth in your life, is particularly important. The discipline of community helps address the problem of self-centeredness. Are you involved deeply in the lives of others - do you have a small group of people you get together with to intentionally care for and love one another, spurring each other on in the faith? God created us for community.

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