Archive for the ‘Fellowship’ Category

My fellowshipping has always been a mixed bag. I both enjoy and am disappointed by it. I started out in life being very introverted with only a few friends and have gradually migrated to being in the middle of the introvert- extrovert scale. One of the major reasons for this migration has been the benefits I have received from being in small groups and mentoring others. I have received camaraderie, encouragement, and care, and have helped others. Thus, I am a believer in the importance of fellowship, even if I don’t enjoy it sometimes.

Many people in our society are disconnected from meaningful relationships. They are isolated and lonely. They don’t seem to know that IPhones and Facebook are poor substitutes for life-to-life relationships. Thus, as I greet people at church, I look for ways to connect to them meaningfully- to fellowship with them at the deepest levels that are appropriate.

For example, last Sunday, I talked to a man who is being developed as a future pastor about some of the challenges that this will bring him. Also, I talked to a young man who is pursuing his dream of a career that differs from what society or even his parents think is best for him. He helped me to more deeply realize that my identity came from who I was and not from what I did. Finally, I talked to a third person about his family and some of his personal issues. Each was a meaningful interaction lasting at least 10 minutes and I believe guided by the Holy Spirit.

Fellowship is communicating with other Christians at various levels of depth in the power of the Holy Spirit (1 John 1:7). For example, the men in our small group met over breakfast recently. I was tempted to try to structure the time and ask questions that would help them connect in deeper ways. But God led otherwise. We just had friendly conversations that focused on day-to-day challenges. I sensed that this is what God wanted us to talk about. It was a relationship-building exercise that would enable us to have deeper conversations at another time.

We need to love, help, and encourage one other (1 Corinthians 14:26). This is why it’s so dangerous to isolate ourselves. Satan likes to pick off Christians who have wandered from the fold by not being in fellowship by discouraging and hardening them to sin.

For example, one of the members of our small group had been going through some difficult circumstances. At first, he decided to drop out of the fellowship and to try to fix himself without any help. But his life continued to fall apart as he stayed away from nearly all the Christians that cared about him. Fortunately, after three weeks, he learned how much he needed fellowship and returned.

We need each other desperately to grow and prosper as Christians. As we express acceptance, kindness, truth, respect and vulnerability to each other, we are encouraged, instructed and challenged. We also need models of how to live godly in the nitty-gritty of life. Many times, people have said that they are greatly encouraged just being around people in our small group because they see how to live out what they are studying in the Bible.

So, are you going to conform to the many people in your world who are disconnected from deep relationships? Or are you going to commit to meaningful fellowship with other Believers? It’s really not an option if we hope to live lives in which God will one day say to us, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21).


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Fellowship is Important

Nearly three years ago, I left the church that I had been a member of for 31 years. I had mixed feelings about leaving, but I believed it was a good move. And it was.

What I have been surprised by is my feeling of loss–the loss of relationships. These were my brothers and sisters in living life. They were my family. They were a major part of my support system.

These were the people I had done life with since my kids were toddlers. These were people I had sought to help and be helped by. They made me feel important, loved, needed, guided, and upheld.  I had sought to use my time and abilities to help build the church, and the church had grown from 100 to 2,500.

Now it was gone! My hometown vanished. I was out in the “north forty” of a new church. I was unknown, not needed, and not connected.

At this new church I am learning that relationships take time to build as God connects me to others in his time and in his ways. Now I am gradually establishing bonds with members of the new church through one to one, small group, and corporate activities.

Getting involved in ministry seems to be one of the main ways God is connecting me to this new church. But I still miss the family at the old church. This surprises me.

But should it?

Why does God stress connecting to others? Why is fellowship so important to God?

First of all, what is fellowship? Is it just Christians getting together and talking? Or is it more?

What It Is

Fellowship is connecting to God and with other Christians in such a way as we are able to use our resources to help them as they use their resources to help us. The goal is that we may all grow into more loving people (Ephesians 4:15-16). This means that being a growing Christian is a team effort. It’s not being a lone ranger or a John Wayne.

Fellowship is loving on one another. Jesus said, “Love one another, even as I have loved you, that you love one another” (John 13:34). And what does it look like to love one another?

  • Be at peace with one another
  • Be devoted to one another
  • Build up one another
  • Encourage one another
  • Accept one another
  • Bear one another’s burdens

No wonder I missed the old church! I had lost a lot of support as well as the blessings of helping others.

But how do we fellowship? Are there such things as good fellowship and not so good fellowship?

How to Do It

Larry Crabb, a well-known author on the spiritual life, says that we can all choose to encourage others. By prayerfully considering how to encourage each person and then doing it we can do much to help that person meet the challenges of daily life. And we all need encouragement, especially pastors (Hebrews 10:24).

Another suggestion on how to fellowship is to be real with other people. We need to let them know who we really are. Not what we want them to see, but the good, the bad, and the ugly in us.

Of course, we will need to do this around safe people. Often this can be found in a healthy small group or in some mentoring relationship.

We will ultimately need to depend on God’s love and acceptance of us no matter how bad we are, to overcome the fear of rejection we may have if we open up and let people see the real person we are. If we aren’t authentic, we can block God’s work through others in ministering to us.

A final thought on how to fellowship is to get involved in a church. God has made each of us a body part. We are not the whole body and we need others to live powerfully. We are gifted and designed by God to play specific roles in his Body. Fellowship happens as we play the role we were designed to play to make our church a healthy place to live (Ephesians 4:16).


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People Who Need People

I was drained. I felt emotionally tired as I approached Tuesday night’s bible study that I lead. I felt about as spiritual as a brick.

I told the Lord that I needed his strength and his presence to lead the discussion.

And the night turned out great! I was encouraged by the fellowship. I felt more energy and inner strength after the discussion than before. I felt that God had used the time to calm my inner turmoil. How it worked, I don’t know. Yet, God had used the love and encouragement of the group to strengthen me.

Thursday night I had another small group that I needed to facilitate. Again, I was the leader. Again, I reached out to God for strength. And again the time went well. The group had become like family to me over the four years that we have met.

They rejoiced over the book that I had just written that they had helped me write. They gave many ideas for how to market the book, which I felt largely clueless in how to do.

We all have realized how rare and valuable a group of people who know us at a heart level and love us anyway can be.

I have been in small groups throughout my 43 years as a Christian. It is how I do the Christian life. I view small groups as transformational communities in which we help each other to grow in the faith.

But many of us tend to be Lone Rangers. We think that God and we are enough. We have not realized the necessity of being involved in a small group.

Yet, God has made us to need each other. He likens the church to a body – and we are just one body part. How silly it is to think that we can live a joyful and powerful life by just being a finger!

Through the years, I have benefited from people in my groups who could be counted on to teach me deeper truths from Scripture. Others would often show me love and compassion. And still others would be exhorters, challenging me to stretch and grow.

But we have to be connected where we can benefit from the unique way that God uses each of us to help one another. We can’t just be focused on studying the Word at the expense of not applying the Word to encourage and build up each other as the Spirit in us works. We can miss the full potential of small groups being places where people’s lives are changed in the midst of a loving community

Often we do not live the truths that we know. We know God loves us, yet we fear the future that he controls, the failure that he promises to work for our good, and the rejection of others in the face of his constant acceptance. In other words, we do not believe deeply that he loves us!

But in a small group, as we reveal who we really are in the company of spirit-filled people, we experience a taste of God’s love that can help us to accept the truth that because of God’s love we have a secure future, failure is no big deal, and the rejection of others stings but does not define us.

May our small group fellowship be for us the caring community that enables us to experience God’s love and makes us more like him.

God wants us to show his love, his humility, his forbearance, his forgiveness, his exhortation, and his encouragement to each other. This becomes a powerful witness to the world, as it has been throughout the history of the church. “See how they love each other!”


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