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Wednesday

Community and Safety

About a month ago my wife and I felt called to start a small group in our home. Through much prayer we determined to create a small group for church leaders. Being leaders in the church we have experienced how difficult it can be to both serve regularly and also find a place to experience true community and fellowship. We created our group to meet on Tuesday nights so that no one would be serving in the church and be unable to attend.

One of the most important needs for a leader in the church (and one of the most difficult needs to meet) is the need for a safe place to confess and repent of sin, ask for help and accountability in overcoming sin, and to speak freely of struggles and frustration involved in serving other people. One of the primary goals for our small group is to be that place for leaders.

In the process of trying to create that, I am discovering something. There is no such thing as a completely safe place for anyone. Even in the most tight knit, mature group of likeminded believers eventually someone will hurt and wound someone else. Because we are all fallen humans this in an inevitability. The problem then is this: If a safe place is needed and a safe place does not exist, then what? Should we even attempt to create a community of safety if we know from the beginning it will ultimately let us down in some way? What about confession and repentance? How can we do those things if we fear that our revelations may be someday used against us?

I think the answer is that we still strive for safety. We do this by investing in the lives of the people in our small group and by learning to know them as intimately as we can while at the same time allowing then to know us intimately as well. I think doing this will eventually accomplish a couple of things for us.

Knowing and being known intimately increases the safety level in a group of people.

The more intimately you know someone the more your love for them increases. The more your love for them increases, the more your desire to see them walk in all that God has for them increases. Knowing, then, that confession and repentance are necessary steps of spiritual maturity, the more intimately we know someone the more we accept and even encourage confession and repentance from them.

Knowing and being known intimately allows us to better judge the hearts of those we are in relationship with.

Knowing the hearts (as best we can) of those around us helps us to forgive them when they wound us. We already said that perfect safety cannot be found this side of heaven. However, we can reach a level of intimacy with people that allows us to know that any wounds or hurts they may inflict on us are most likely not intentional and are not in line with who they desire to be. Knowing that allows us more freedom to forgive them and to continue in relationship with them.

The bottom line it seems is this: Community is essential to spiritual growth. The fact that perfect community does not exist does not lessen our need for it. We must pursue it to the best of our ability and be willing to forgive when someone else breaks community and be willing to confess and repent when we do the same.

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JOHN DOE
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