I believe that Fellowship is one of the more crucial keys to a reality-based Christian life. In Hebrews 10:19-25, we are told not to forsake the assembling of ourselves together, so that we can help each other to “hold fast the profession of our faith” (ie. – to NOT give up!).
A lot of folks get saved and have to forsake all of their old friends, their old hang-outs, even their families in order to gain a much better reward. I certainly did had to! Often, because old habits and natures assert themselves around those former peer groups and environments, a new convert’s very survival, sadly, makes these sorts of situations unavoidable. Yet because Man is a social creature, this leaves a Void in their lives.
Now, a lot of folks will tell you that you should fill this Void with God. Well-meaning believers will make the claim that God alone should be sufficient, and that so long as we have Him for a companion, we should never feel alone. But while it’s true that God could fill that Void completely with Himself, he has chosen instead that we believers support one another. Too often we forget that His method is men. By that, I mean you and me, of course.
The problem that many folks run into is that the Church’s concept of “fellowship” is somewhat less than the Book advertised. They find the “ever-loving” Family of God to be somewhat estranged in most cases, and even dysfunctional in the worst cases! What we call “fellowship” doesn’t even come close to the level of interaction that social humans require. Worse, it doesn’t even compare to the relationships that new converts enjoyed when they were out in Sin!
We get a quick round of hugs and handshakes, and a few “God-bless-you”s, “Glad-you’re-here”s, and “I-love-you”s that may be sincere, but are often merely rote. We say and do those things automatically, without thought or consideration. It’s just a custom or a social nicety. Even if we are sincere, is this enough to base a “family” relationship on? How can you love someone you barely even know? How can you bear my burdens and I your’s if we don’t even know the load each of us bears?? I mean, who is that guy in the next pew exactly? What’s their name? What are they going through? How did they get saved? Are they saved at all? Why do they come to your mutual church week after week? Why weren’t they there last week?
Honestly, do we expect Sunday morning churchiness and potluck dinner gatherings to qualify as fellowship of any substance? My generation in particular cannot be satisfied with superficiality. A lot of our families are divorced, shattered, broken. We aren’t sure we can trust this Heavenly Father because many of our own fathers were abusive or absent. How are we to trust our church fathers and pastors? Family is a notion we’d dearly like to experience, but to many of us it’s just a notion.
So what is the answer? Small groups ministries? Special focus groups? Retreats? More belly-bustin’ potluck dinners?
Opportunities are certainly needed, but what we need more is trust. What we need is a place where we can come together and not feel the need to put up a false front of Pharisaical spirituality. What we need is a place where we can confess our faults one to another [James 5:16] without these faults being used against us. Trust is hard to come by. It’s reeeeeally easy to lose. Forever. But the USAmerican church has this tendency to eat their wounded. The moment someone shows a sign of weakness or dare I say earthiness, the attack begins. The judging. The holier-than-thou snobbery and snubbery. In some cases, I’ve even seen men of God try to run those who confess their faults out of the church, having used those confessed faults or weaknesses as leverage to oust someone for, I fear, political gain [I abhor church politics] — for there ARE true wolves amongst the sheep.
But we must create, cultivate and ardently defend and maintain church environments that allow trust and honesty, for only then can we come together in authentic fellowship with one another.
Of course, trust has to begin with us. That’s right. We have to be the one who is brave enough to go out on a limb and admit that we’re not perfect. We have to be courageous enough in the face of a potential roomful of ferociously Pharisaical rule-breathing dragons to stand up and confess our faults, admit that we need help and for someone to stand in the gap with you to live this life. That’s where true fellowship will begin in your congregation.
Take it from someone on the eathy side of Christendom,
Read more of the What’s Wrong With Church series!