Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The way into fellowship

How do you become part of a community?  It takes time and it takes some things in common.  Living in a town or a neighborhood can make you part of a community. 

For Christian fellowships, being part of the community involves believing, belonging and behaving.  These three elements don't all come at the same time.  Some fellowships require that you first believe as they do about cultural, moral and spiritual matters.  Secondly, you must behave as they do, following the rules, both written and unwritten.  Finally, if you can pass these tests, you are accepted and you belong.

The problem with this order of business is that the cost of belonging is so great that few people can rise to the challenge.  Such fellowships of believers remain small, and can become clique-ish.

A better way to grow a community is to change the order of the steps.  People can be allowed first to belong, warts and all.  In a loving environment, the Holy Spirit can work in their hearts and lead them to believe.  Once they belong and believe, they have the will to behave.

The Holy Spirit, living in the new believer, helps him or her want to change behavior, to become more like Christ.  The others in the fellowship can provide the love, support and accountability that makes the transformation possible.

Maybe loving our neighbors where they are is a good place to start.  We bring people into fellowship through belonging, believing and behaving.