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Forming a Community of the Spirit: Hospitality, Fellowship, and Nurture, Part 2 of 2, by Steven M. Fettke


This chapter is an excerpt from Steven M. Fettke, God’s Empowered People: A Pentecostal Theology of the Laity (Wipf & Stock 2011). Read Part 1 in the Winter 2012 issue of Pneuma Review.

Forming a Nurturing Community

A mother was preparing breakfast for her two sons, Kevin, age five, and Ryan, age three. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. “If Jesus were sitting here, he would say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.’” Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, “Ryan, you be Jesus!”

Some people can get so caught up in their own agendas and schedules that they forget that there are others around who might be hurting. Sadly, they often come across as too selfish to take time out to help those who are hurting because that might mean they would get off their strict daily schedules or they might have to hurt a bit with someone. After all, don’t they have enough troubles of their own without having to take on those of others? Let someone else deal with those hurting people. I will deal with my own needs, thank you very much. Those other folks who are hurting can deal with their own hurts themselves, just as I do.

Other people simply find themselves stressed and in need of loving nurture to sustain their faith. They need the warm embrace of a loving and accepting community as they negotiate the difficulties of living in a fast-paced society that expects so much of them in terms of job success, family wholeness, and psychological health and well being without providing the necessary supports for these things to happen. They need warm and loving nurture themselves, which often means they are unable to extend the same to others. They do not mean to be selfish and self-absorbed; they are just needy and weary.

To speak of love and nurture without recognizing real human stresses and strains is to ignore a common ailment of a hectic modern society. People are not surprised to be treated shabbily by a store clerk or fellow driver on the roadways. Who has not complained about a bored teenager who checked or bagged the groceries or a surly auto service manager who was barely civil when servicing the car? In such an atmosphere people become defensive because of the meanness encountered. Believers try not to be apathetic or mean in return, but often the atmosphere gets the better of them. At least they try to conceal their feelings with the thought that no one cares anyway, and certainly they don’t want to contribute with their own cruelty to the overall meanness already prevalent.

In addition, the notions of love and nurture have been cheapened by casual sex in television programs and in most movies. It is also common for television programs and movies to present a casual view of marriage and relationship commitments, as well as to present scenes of friends in deep conflict and division; often perpetrating great acts of cruelty upon each other. It does not help when most adult believers can tell tragic stories of churches split over some sort of un-Christian and inhumane treatment of a particular group of believers or the unjust treatment of a capable pastor.

It takes great care to speak of love and nurture to believers who might be a bit jaded by a society so casual about love and relationships. These adult believers may have become cynics about love and nurture from hearing it widely proclaimed in churches they have attended where only anger and division was experienced instead. Speaking of love and nurture is a delicate task because so many have been hurt in some way by counterfeits or by selfish people whose words of love belied their selfish actions.

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Category: Ministry, Spring 2012

About the Author: Steven M. Fettke, M.Div. (Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary), Th.M., D.Min. (Columbia Theological Seminary), is Professor of Religion at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He was awarded the Delta Alpha Distinguished Educator Award by the Alliance for Assemblies of God Higher Education in 2009. He is the author of Messages to a Nation in Crisis: An Introduction to the Prophecy of Jeremiah (1982).

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