Chapter OneSession 1
THE BIG PICTURE
Chicago Tribune writer Marla Paul took a risk when she wrote
a self-revealing column confessing her sadness and frustration
over her own inability to build and sustain friendships. She
wrote this column expecting little, if any, response. However,
she was inundated with letters from others experiencing the
same kind of isolation and frustration.
One person wrote, "I've often felt that I'm standing outside
looking through the window of a party to which I was not
invited." What a vivid picture! Do you ever feel that way? Do
you ever have a sense of being on the outside looking in?
Another woman wrote, "I have this fear of becoming a very
lonely, old widow sitting around and listening to the clock
tick." This fear, she says, just about paralyzes her life. It is
probably a well-founded fear, because she confessed in her
letter that she has no sense of community. She has no family.
She has no friendship or small group or church community of
which she's a part. She feels that she's going to die alone, and
she may be right.
In the summer of '95, many people died in Chicago's heat wave.
I was shocked to read that forty-one of them were buried in a
mass grave called "The Potter's Field." Not a single person
surfaced to claim their bodies or grieve their passing. Forty-one
people died alone.
Marla Paul ended her column about loneliness with these
words: "Sometimes it seems easier to just give up and accept
disconnectedness as a dark and unshakable companion; but,
that's not the companion I want." She writes, "So I will persevere."
She is going to keep longing, searching, trying, and
hoping that someday she will be able to discover and develop
A WIDE ANGLE VIEW
1 Describe a time in your life when you experienced real
community and connectedness with other people.
Where do you experience community now?
A BIBLICAL PORTRAIT
Read Genesis 2:15-25
2 What do you learn about loneliness and the human
need for community from this passage?
SHARPENING THE FOCUS
Read Snapshot "Knowing and Being Known"
Knowing and Being Known
If I were to catch you in a quiet and reflective mood, and if you were aware enough of the longings and
yearnings of your heart, I think you would say, "I would love to know others deeply and be known
fully by them." In a moment of complete honesty, I think we would all love it if there were some people
in our lives who trusted us enough to disclose the deep and tender parts of themselves. I think we
would love to be able to unlock some of the vaulted feelings we carry to people who really cared.
Most of us gravitate toward friendships, dating, marriage, golf leagues, racquetball clubs, or small groups
because somewhere floating around within us is a yearning to know and be known by others.
3 What are some of the things that keep us from opening
our hearts and lives on a deep level so we can be known
4 Suppose you made this commitment: "I am going to
open my life in a way that allows others to know me
deeply. I am going to find some people I will allow to
see my deepest joys, needs, struggles, and victories. I
am also going to invite them to open their hearts and
lives to me on this same deep level."
What are some of the possible risks you would be taking?
What are some of the possible joys you might experience?
Read Snapshot "Loving and Being Loved"
Loving and Being Loved
Another component in community is loving and being loved. Unless you are exchanging deeply
committed levels of love with a few people, you will die slowly on the inside. This is precisely why so
many people feel almost nothing at all. Through the whole course of their lives, they have never
exchanged deep levels of love with anybody. It hasn't happened with their parents. It hasn't happened
with a spouse. And sadly, it hasn't happened with friends. By this point in life they have become completely
numb to the possibility that they might experience a passionate, loving relationship. This is not God's plan
for us. He hungers for us to be loved and to give love to others. As a matter of fact, He wants this for us even
more than we hunger for it ourselves.
5 Who in your life has poured out consistent and deep
levels of love on you, and how have they expressed
6 Finish the statements below:
I experience love the most from others when they .
I am most comfortable expressing love by .
I find it hard to receive love from others because .
Read Snapshot "Serving and Being Served"
Serving and Being Served
Community is also about serving and being served. The single most stirring example of this is
recorded in John 13. In this chapter Jesus takes the position of the lowest servant and washes the feet
of His followers. He gives them a powerful example and then calls them to follow. Servanthood is at
the very core of community. To sustain deep relationships over a long period of time, there must be
humility and a willingness to serve each other. There also must be a willingness to be served. When
Jesus took a towel and a bowl of water and washed the feet of His followers, He established once and for all
the absolute centrality of serving for all who desire to live in community.
7 How have you been served by others and how has
their Christlike service helped to build community?
8 With whom would you want to move toward a deeper
level of community? What act of service will you render
to help develop a deeper relationship and sense of
Read Snapshot "Celebrating and Being Celebrated"
Celebrating and Being Celebrated
If you haven't had a good blush recently, read a short book in the Bible called Song of Songs. It's a
record of a bride and a bridegroom writing poetic and romantic notes to each other. They are freely
celebrating every conceivable aspect of each other's personalities, character, and physical characteristics.
At one point the groom says, "You have made my heart beat fast with a single glance from your
eyes. How beautiful is your love, my bride. How much better it is than the finest of wines." Near the
end of the book they both agree that a loving community in the context of a marriage is just about as good
as it gets. They refer to the wealth and fortunes of a hugely successful man they know, and they say to each other,
"We wouldn't think of trading what we have for all of his riches. We have community."
This couple enhanced their community and the quality of their relationship by creatively celebrating each
other. They did what many of us fail to do. They noticed each other. They observed each other carefully. Then they
decided to highlight what they found attractive and desirable and praiseworthy about each other and took the time to
express it. We have the ability to delight each other's hearts when we celebrate one another.
9 Take time as a group to celebrate each other. Have each
member of your group ask one or two other members
to finish this statement: If you were suddenly taken out
of my life, I would miss your__________________.
PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE PICTURE
An Expression of Thanks
If there is a person in your life who has freely poured out deep
levels of love on you, take time in the coming weeks to express
your thankfulness. Call them on the phone, write them a note,
or take them out to lunch. Communicate how much their
love means to you and how much you appreciate the community
you have together. Take time to celebrate what they have
meant and continue to mean in your life.
A Commitment to Celebration
Make a list of three people who are not in your small group but
who you want to celebrate and affirm. Use the same format as
you used in question nine to let them know what you would
miss about them if you were no longer in community. Tell
them why you appreciate being in community with them.