I spent the better part of last week at the Lewis Fellowship in Washington D.C. I have been meeting with this group for two years, three times per year, at places around the country. We are all young clergy who were 3-10 years out of Seminary at the inception, and all identified as having significant gifts for pastoral leadership. We learn about and reflect upon pastoral leadership each time we gather.
We are also really good friends. This group has been a lifeline for me when times get challenging. Every time we gather, we are blessed by each other. We are brutally honest and refreshingly vulnerable about what we are epxeriencing in the church and personal lives. There is a bond of trust among this group of 22 like I have never experienced among a group of this size. Clearly, it is the work of the Holy Spirit to bring us together.
One of the first speakers at this gathering spoke about the importance of getting on the balcony. So much of church life we are in the mosh pit (my words) that is absolutely vital that we get to a place of fresh perspective, lest we lose sight of God's vision for a church family.
This image has stayed with me, and settled deep into my being. It is an image that is becoming one that I think will stay with me. This fellowship has been my balcony- my place of getting fresh perspective.
At the closing banquet, one of our members was talking about how invaluable this group has been for him. He said somthing along the lines of "when I got here, I knew I had made some mistakes but..." He hesitated to find the right words. I offered him "but those mistakes were nothing compared to what have done?" We all laughed. There is power in solidarity, in sharing our stories, and discovering that many others share similar experiences.
Being a Christian, particularly a Christian leader, can feel isolating at times. Clearly Jesus understood this; he surrounded himself with disciples. This must be why small group fellowship has been so vital throughout Christian history. God knows we need it to remain faithful.