The Gift of Spiritual Family: Experiencing Life Together

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What do you put into your spiritual family? What do you get out of it?

Experiencing life in the context of your spiritual family is one of God’s purposes for you. Pastor Rick Warren shares four vital experiences of fellowship and five ways to build and maintain a healthy fellowship community.

Read more to learn how to contribute to—and be blessed by—your spiritual family.

Your Spiritual Family

God created us to be part of a spiritual family that dedicates itself to loving and honoring him—as a believer, you’re not only his child but a sibling to all other past, present, and future believers. In loving your spiritual family, you’ll learn the essential skill of unselfish loving. Unselfish loving means loving others, even when it’s difficult to do so—such as when they’re being rude, it’s inconvenient for you, or they need too much from you. 

Get to Know Your Spiritual Family

Being a member of your church is important because your church will serve as your support system through the hard work of fulfilling your purposes. Take the step beyond attending church and start to get involved in it by getting to know the other members, showing love to them, and finding your role within your spiritual family. 

The Vital Experiences of Fellowship

When you become involved with your spiritual family, you experience life with them. Experiencing life together—the good and the bad—is called fellowship. Fellowship is best practiced as a small group within your church, because everyone has the chance to speak up, be heard, and meaningfully support one another. In these small groups, you can experience genuine fellowship, which grants you four vital experiences that enhance your spiritual growth and understanding of unselfish love. 

  1. Mutuality: In a fellowship committed to mutuality, members take care of one another, reciprocate what they receive, and take on equal responsibilities. They can fully depend on one another to have their needs—physical, emotional, and spiritual—met. 
  2. Authenticity: In an authentic fellowship, you’re free to be fully honest about your failures, confess your weaknesses, ask for help, and discuss your doubts. The more you open up about your life, the more other group members are willing to open up about theirs. This creates a fellowship of holistic support, where all struggles are addressed. 
  3. Sympathy: A sympathetic fellowship responds to members’ suffering by entering into their pain with them to help carry the burden and validate their emotions. This fellowship of suffering is the deepest level of fellowship you can offer someone, because turning toward someone’s pain, not away, is a profound act of unselfish love. 
  4. Forgiveness: Genuine fellowship forgives and moves on quickly. Sometimes you’ll hurt the people in your fellowship or you’ll be hurt by them, but a genuine fellowship will never use your mistakes against you. 

Build and Maintain a Healthy Fellowship Community 

It takes a lot of work to build a healthy, loving fellowship, but God reveals how to do so through his Word—there are five elements that every healthy fellowship community needs: 

  1. Honesty: Members tell hard truths and speak to one another directly but lovingly, as they would a member of their family. This type of honesty allows group members to work through issues instead of hiding them or diminishing them—actions that can create underlying frustration or hurt in the group, eventually causing it to crumble. 
  2. Humility: Humility is essential in a fellowship group because it opens you up to asking for help, and helps you relate to others’ experiences instead of looking down on them. 
  3. Courtesy: Being courteous of others means being considerate of their feelings, respectful of their differences, and exercising patience. This is especially important with members you find “difficult.” When you try to better understand these people with patience, you may find there’s a reason for their “difficulty” like insecurity or trauma. It’s easier to show unselfish love toward people once you really get to know them. 
  4. Trust: Your group not only has a duty to deal with any issues that a member brings up but also to understand that these issues are shared in confidence—no one outside your group should find out about them.  
  5. Regularity: Deep, meaningful relationships happen between people who meet frequently. Your meetings shouldn’t be organized around convenience—this makes it all too easy for urgent, unimportant matters to get in the way.
The Gift of Spiritual Family: Experiencing Life Together

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Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She has always appreciated nonfiction, especially about history, politics, and ideas. A switch to audio books has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. As a former intelligence analyst and a teacher of critical thinking skills, Elizabeth enjoys analyzing arguments on all sides of an issue. Her nonfiction preferences include theology, science, and philosophy. She studies the intersection of these three in pursuit of the highest truths. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a creative nonfiction book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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