Life Together Series: A Shared Life

I remember the last time I did a series off of my Purpose Driven Life devotionals that come up in my in-box. They were on love – love is an action, a decision, a habit, and others.  This is another series from the same source.  

Coming off of the last two posts on The Shape of the Church (part 1 and part 2),  this series, taken from the Purpose Driven Connection – the weekly email devotional from Saddleback Church and Pastor Rick Warren is called the “Life Together” series – dealing with the focus of the church.  The first devotion deals with “A Shared Life.”  

To read the devotion yourself, click here.

Rev. Warren starts off with this:

God intends for us to experience life together. The Bible calls this shared experience “fellowship.”

Today, however, the word has lost most of its biblical meaning. Fellowship now usually refers to casual conversation, socializing, food, and fun.

Isn’t that the truth?  But what is the real meaning of ‘fellowship’?

The Greek word for ‘fellowship is “koinōnia” and according to the Blue Letter Bible its definition is “fellowship, communion, communication, distribution, contribution, to communicate.”

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.

That’s so true… as Rev. Warren also comments in this devotion:

When it comes to fellowship, size matters: smaller is better. You can worship with a crowd, but you can’t fellowship with one.

Once a group becomes larger than about ten people, someone stops participating—usually the quietest person—and a few people will dominate the group.

The small group is the heart of fellowship – of sharing life.  My own home assembly is about ten people and I see this in practice – even although we can learn to do it so much more practically!  It’s really humbling to see the entire church come out to help when one member is sick, or in need… I remember when I was low on funds for an extended period of time and some of the money we were collecting as tithes showed up unanounced under my door one evening – and a couple members of the church felt the need to contribute out of their pockets as well.  All in all that day my wife and I saw about 3 envelopes that had almost $1000 all collected!  All this without asking for any assistance!

Rev. Warren comments that, “The body of Christ, like your own body, is really a collection of many small cells. The life of the body of Christ, like your body, is contained in the cells.”  This is the goal for small groups, although in practice I have found that when ‘small group ministry’ is tacked on to a larger assembly’s DNA it doesn’t always achieve the fullest potential.  Instead of a small group of people learning how to have real koinōnia through extended periods of sharing life by being vulnerable, being real – when it is tacked on to a larger assembly participants tend to retreat into the big meetings and never really connect.  

 When all  you have is ten people – there is nowhere to hide!  The quiet ones are encouraged to communicate, and the ones who are more dominant are more easily encouraged to let the others particpate.  It’s easier in a small group to share hurts and pains, to confess sins and receive forgiveness,  to ask for and receive practical assistance – and even to keep in contact! 

How many of you really know the people in your church?  What aspects of life  do you share?  Are you comfortable letting down your guard? Being yourself?

Thoughts?

 

Blue Letter Bible. “Dictionary and Word Search for ‘fellowship’ in the KJV”. Blue Letter Bible. 1996-2009. 19 May 2009. < http:// www.blueletterbible.org/search/translationResults.cfm?
Criteria=fellowship&t=KJV >

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10 Responses

  1. It’s difficult for me to comment here as it opens up old wounds …

    “How many of you really know the people in your church? What aspects of life do you share? Are you comfortable letting down your guard? Being yourself”

    It all boils down to trust, doesn’t it? Just like in a family.
    After a terrible experience in a small church which after a change of leadership was abandoned by all of us old members – I would say no, I do not trust anymore.
    Abusive leadership is the worst thing that can happen to a church, that’s why accountability and solid Bible teaching are so important.

    “Rev. Warren comments that, “The body of Christ, like your own body, is really a collection of many small cells.”
    Always beware of cancerous cells! Beware of spiritual abuse!

    Ok, my comment is pretty negative, I’m sorry – many years ago I did experience a wonderful church family for 4 years and I remember it with gratitude and pleasure and sadness.
    We shared and prayed and learned together and many were saved!

    I pray that your church will always be a safe home!
    God bless you, Jonie

  2. Abusive leadership is the worst thing that can happen to a church, that’s why accountability and solid Bible teaching are so important.

    I agree Jonie…. I’m sorry you went through that … and I hope you can learn to trust ME 😉

    I pray that your church will always be a safe home!

    So do I, Jonie, so do I….

    Love you!

  3. Good message. I agree in the current trend of “super-churches”, it can be important to retain a small, close-knit group of believers as an intimate support structure. I think a good way to do this is to start a Bible Study during the week and invite a few people (or just see who shows up).

    • Sounds like a good start…. and then, with who ever ‘turns up’ make a commitment with to share ‘life’ and not just ‘come to meetings’. The issue is that we as the Church have been bitten by the bug of meeting-itis… always going to meetings, meetings… but have nothing to do with one another outside of those meetings. The thing about Christ and his disciples is that they spent so much time together that they knew each other… and this is the point. It’s not just a way to have more meetings. This is a shared life – a melding together of hearts.

      In my own church experience, we all ‘own’ the church, with an equal say in what happens. Rather than one person ‘lead from the front’ and we all sit passively listening, we all contribute at every level – so much so that the ‘leadeship’ of the church (the one who has control of the meetings) rotates each month! Some of us meet together to study together as they are in the same field, while others assist with baby sitting or other ‘un- church’ tasks….

  4. Thank you so much for this blog. People learning to TRULY share life has been a passion yet frustration for me over the last few months. I find the language so common within the Western Church to be disturbing. For most, shared life is an additive.

    Some of the gas stations lately have started providing an additive to the gasoline at an extra charge that is pumped into the tank with the gas. A prerecorded voice begins the sales pitch and I usually push the button to turn off the sound. I have paid extra for these additives a few times because I do think they help the engine but with the price of gas I just don’t want to pay extra. After all, it is just an additive and not completely necessary.

    Shared life is not an additive from God’s perspective. It is the church – meetings and listening to someone teach today what everyone will forget by tomorrow is the additive.

    • Very true, Jeff… Shared life is NOT an additive, like you say. Glad for your input! Do you share life with anyone in the Body of Christ, yourself?

      BTW – Welcome to the Hand of God!

      • Yes. I am part of a community of people called Fusion in Oklahoma City that is striving to share life with each other and with the community around us called The Plaza District. We also gather with people outside of Fusion to share life in numerous ways. Our perspective though is more about sharing life with everyone both on a temporary basis and on a more intimate level.

        • I liked that, Jeff… I’m glad that the post resonated with your experience. Share some of your experiences here or via email – who knows, they might get featured on a post as an example of shared life or anything else that resonates with you!

  5. […] Life Together – A Shared Life […]

  6. […] Life Together – A Shared Life […]

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