For the past few weeks, I’ve been discussing our priorities as a church family. These priorities have been in place in our church for the past 20 years. Since our mission is to equip and army of fully devoted disciples who extend the Kingdom of God as they experience and express the compassion and truth of the Lord Jesus, these priorities help us understand what a fully devoted disciple looks like. There is no one who has all these priorities fully developed in their lives. We, however, believe Jesus is building these things into our lives so that we may live the abundant life and fulfill His call on our lives to be salt and light in a broken, needy world.
Priority #1 Intimate, sincere and enthusiastic worship
Priority #2 Compassion driven outreach
Priority #3 Hands on, Spirit led ministry
Priority #4 Grace filled obedience to the Word of God.
I want to take a few minutes and write about our fifth priority: Loving, carefrontational community.
The Christian life was never meant to be a solo flight or a one man show. The fact is, we need each other. But there is another fact. Relationships take work. Relationships grow as a result of our efforts. And in nearly every instance, what we put into our relationships is exactly what we get out of them.
Small Groups are an integral part of our church. We see great advantage for people to be in Small Groups. Discipleship can take place in a Small Group as well as service and outreach. The study of the Bible often takes place in our Small Groups but the most important aspect of our Small Groups is the potential of developing loving, carefrontational friendships.
Ethel Barrymore once said, “The best time to make friends is before you need them.” This is so true. We need people to love us, encourage and comfort us but as important, to confront us when we need correction with a sincere care for our well-being. That’s where we get the word, carefrontational. We made this word up but the meaning seems clear. We need people who will tell us, not what we want to hear but what we need to hear in order for us to grow up into Christlikeness.
Walter Winchell said, “A friend is one who walks in when others are walking out.” How desperately each one of us needs these kinds of relationships.
My wife and I are in a Small Group that has had one focus for the past several months. Each member of our Small Group takes a half an hour to an hour and tells their story from infancy to adulthood. As one member conveys his or her life’s story, the rest of us sit and listen intently. We listen to the victories and the failures, the mistakes and the successes. We listen without judgment and we listen with a heart of love. Once the person is finished telling their story, we don’t give them advice or even question why certain things happened. We take time and affirm this courageous story-teller and point out things we see God doing and has already done on behalf is His beloved child.
It is amazing how the more you understand the narrative of a person’s life, the greater the capacity God gives us to love them.
Most people know John 3:16, the great verse that declares the love God has for the world. But 1 John 3:16 is not as well known.
1 John 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.