Cultivating Community

Day 19 from 'The Purpose Driven Life' by Rick Warren

Italics added by editor.

Cultivating community takes honesty.  You will have to care enough to lovingly speak the truth, even when you would rather gloss over a problem or ignore an issue. While it is much easier to remain silent when others around us are harming themselves or others with a sinful pattern, it is not the loving thing to do. Most people have no one in their lives who loves them enough to tell them the truth (even when it’s painful), so they continue in self-destructive ways. Often we know what needs to be said to someone, but our fears prevent us from saying anything. Many fellowships have been sabotaged by fear: No one had the courage to speak up in the group while a member’s life fell apart.

The Bible tells us to “speak the truth in love” (Eph 4:15) because we can’t have community without candor. Solomon said, “An honest answer is a sign of true friendship.” (Prov 24:26) Sometimes this means caring enough to lovingly confront one who is sinning or is being tempted to sin. Paul says, “Brothers and sisters, if someone in your group does something wrong, you who are spiritual should go to that person and gently help make him right again.” (Gal 6:1-2)

Many church fellowships and small groups remain superficial because they are afraid of conflict. Whenever an issue pops up that might cause tension or discomfort, it is immediately glossed over in order to preserve a false sense of peace. Mr. “Don’t Rock the Boat” jumps in and tries to smooth everyone’s ruffled feathers, the issue is never resolved, and everyone lives with an underlying frustration. Everyone knows about the problem, but no one talks about it openly. This creates a sick environment of secrets where gossip thrives. Paul’s solution was straightforward: “No more lies, no more pretense. Tell your neighbor the truth. In Christ’s body we’re all connected to each other, after all. When you lie to others, you end up lying to yourself.” (Eph 4:25)

Real fellowship, whether in a marriage, a friendship, or your church, depends on frankness. In fact, the tunnel of conflict is the passageway to intimacy in any relationship. Until you care enough to confront and resolve the underlying barriers, you will never grow close to each other. When conflict is handled correctly, we grow closer to each other by facing and resolving our differences. The Bible says, “In the end, people appreciate frankness more than flattery.”(Prov 28:23) …

Sadly, thousands of fellowships have been destroyed by a lack of honestly. Paul had to rebuke the Corinthian church for their passive code of silence in allowing immorality in their fellowship. Since no one had the courage to confront it, he said, “You must not simply look the other way and hope it goes away on its own. Bring it out in the open and deal with it…Better devastation and embarrassment than damnation…You pass it off as a small thing, but its anything but that…you shouldn’t act as if everything is just fine when one of your Christian companions is promiscuous or crooked, is flip with God or rude to friends, gets drunk or becomes greedy and predatory. You can’t just go along with this, treating it as acceptable behavior. I’m not responsible for what the outsiders do, but don’t we have some responsibility for those within our community of believers?” (1Cor 5:3-12)

Cultivating community takes humility. Self-importance, smugness, and stubborn pride destroy fellowship faster than anything else. Pride builds walls between people; humility builds bridges. Humility is the oil that smoothes and soothes relationships. That’s why the Bible says, “clothe yourselves with humility toward one another.” (1Pet 5:5b) The proper dress for fellowship is a humble attitude.

The rest of that verse says, “…because, God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (1Pet 5:5c) This is the other reason we need to be humble: Pride blocks Gods grace in our lives, which we must have in order to grow, change, heal, and help others.

Editor's note: This quote is both beautiful and true. Had this been done 29 years ago, much of the pain and sorrow that defines the Assembly today would not exist. However, fear and darkness have been reigning for the last 3 decades, and the problems and denials have deep, well-fed roots. The prayer for this website is that God would give us the courage to honestly, truthfully, tell the church. Many may cry, "but you should go to the person first!" Yes, this is true, however, this has been done many times by many people, and the Assembly leadership refuses to be entreated. They put out of the church those few who have the courage to say something. They simply won't allow the truth to be told. Yet still, repentance is possible, and God still extends His Grace to those who will hear. I believe that the door to repentance was wide open 2 years ago, more than halfway shut in the summer of 2001, and that it is now shut, with a sliver of light coming in under the door. I entreat my brethren, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock…”

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