Friday, May 29, 2009

How Can I Get Better Fellowship Going In My Church?

Biblical fellowship is a matter of fact, rather than feeling. Folk often measure fellowship's 'goodness,' by how satisfying it feels. But Christian fellowship is not feeling, but fact. Cart before the horse, some Christians mistakenly approach fellowship as if it is something we achieve. We cannot! Jesus has already obtained it for us. Still, many, hungry for chums, put feelings before fact and faith, when it comes to 'fellowship.' We crave friendships, when God has provided for much more.

Imagine you are on a plane with 500 strangers: Suddenly you hear a boom, and the plane is going down! People are screaming as the plane careens downward for what seems like several minutes! You prepare for a messy death! Expecting impact, suddenly, the plane pulls up, and miraculously levels! The pilot lands roughly in an overgrown field! People scramble and are guided to a grassy hill! Then turning everyone sees the plane, engulfed in flames. As folk watch in silence, you look around, marveling that you all survived!

Finally breathing more evenly, you turn and see that others on the hill are starting to relax a bit too. Mothers are finding children and crying for joy. Airline workers are checking for injuries. Now imagine a fellow passenger about your age approaching you, obviously wanting to say something. You guess what they are going to say. But instead they say:

“Some of us are going to play Pictionary. We were wondering if you’d like to join us.”

“Huh?” you ask.

“Pictionary. It might be a while till help arrives and we thought playing a game of Pictionary might help break the ice.”

What ice? You’ve both just been rescued from certain death! Who needs icebreakers? Talk about what you have just experienced together! This is life altering and something you share with all 500 others. You want to find out what is going on with them!

Well fellow Christians? We've literally been snatched from the Kingdom of Darkness and thrust into the Kingdom of Light! What else should we start a conversation with? We don’t need to 'warm up,' 'get comfortable with' each other, or 'find common interests.'

“For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”
Colossians 1:13

If this is true of you and of me, and we just meet; what are we talking about baseball for? Jesus rescued us from being dominated by darkness! Through His violent crucifixion, followed by His stupendous resurrection, we profess; He has set us free! Jesus broke all possible ice, when He included us! Chums are nice. . .

“Yet to all who received Him, to those who believed in His name, He gave the right to become children of God.”
John 1:12

No outings, projects, potlucks, or icebreakers will enhance what Jesus has done. If anything, these distract from real fellowship. Biblical fellowship is not something that we achieve. It is something we already share. That it would be foremost in our conversation with one another is presumed and exhorted. Fellowship happens through regeneration; we become members of the body of Christ.

"Speak to one another with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs. Sing and make music in your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Ephesians 5:19

"If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God."
1 Peter 4:11

And also with those not yet in the Kingdom:

"Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone."

Colossians 4:6

“Fellowship” is mentioned 9 times in the New Testament. It is fact, and not feelings. Of course feelings of love will often follow, for those participating in this fellowship. But there’s no easing into it. We are already in! Actually, we are commanded to get on with it. From these nine verses, “fellowship” is:

… the sharing of our Christian experience: regarding adherence to the apostle’s teaching, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42). For the born again child of God, fellowship is something we have with Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:9), with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:14), something we have with the Father (1 John 1:3), and something we have with one another. (1 John 1:7).

Our Father calls us into fellowship with Himself, with Christ and with the Holy Spirit. We share fellowship with one another, when we share in Christ’s sufferings, or in His glory. Fellowship is something we are to protect. We extend it only to those who have likewise received from God, the grace of God. We extend fellowship, recognizing we are family. (Galatians 2:9) We don’t call family, those who do not walk in God’s truth. (1 Corinthians 5:2). In fact, it is impossible for unbelievers to have biblical fellowship with believers. (2 Corinthians 6:14). One cannot have fellowship with God, while walking in darkness, and we can only have fellowship with believers who walk in God’s truth. (1 John 1:6,7).

Of course fond feelings follow! We aren’t robots. We are a family with strong parentage. When kind parents insist on how their kids treat one another, and relate to one another, those children usually grow up enjoying one another too. In my family growing up, we kids couldn’t hit one another, steal, lie to, or be mean to one another. The family rules were clear. Even among cousins, we had to “get along,” or there would be no swimming, sleepovers, or camping trips. And we kids knew it! As a result, I believe, we enjoy each other to this day.

God has instruction for His children. The New Testament is very clear on how we are to relate to one another. But instead we go after friendships among ourselves as the world does. We either exclude through special interest groups: “Entomologists for Jesus,” etc., or we promote our earthly differences with “diversity appreciation” events, in effort to promote "understanding," when we have God’s higher call to Agape love one another; feel it or not! In Christ, there is no division and there is no diversity! Pop culture sets the bar extremely low. God’s bar has never lowered.

“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
Galatians 3:28

Compared to what we have in Christ, cultural differences or likenesses mean nothing. Christ means everything to His family! The proper response when getting safely off that exploding plane was, “Wow! Did you see that?” And then, “What was racing through your mind as we were heading down?” or, “Do you think an angel helped or what?”

With shared Christian experience (fellowship), our proper introductions should be, “You know Jesus too? Awesome! How did you meet?” “Isn’t God great?” This is the sure way to enliven any Christian gathering. Anything else may be either divisive or distracting, postponing rather than quickening "fellowship." I once lived in a small fishing village in Haiti. One of the greetings that total strangers might ask on the road was, “Eske ou konveti?” (Are you changed?) And the believer’s response to this stranger-now family was, “Oui, gras a Dieu!” (Yes, by the grace of God!).

Throwing into the mix special interests like sports, hobbies, age groups, etc. only confuses things. What we have most in common, is Jesus.

Brother Charles Colson was once famous for being president “Nixon’s Hatchet Man.” A very aggressive political advisor; he threw some mean punches in Washington before being changed by Christ. Many who had heard of Mr. Colson’s conversion, were skeptical. Senator Harold Hughes was one. For ten years, Colson and Hughes were political enemies, and just now meeting as brothers.

In his book, “Born Again,” Brother Colson beautifully records this encounter. Colson and Hughes had no camaraderie, and certainly no friendship! But Senator Hughes, more mature in the faith, created an atmosphere of fellowship, by asking:

“Chuck, they tell me you have had an encounter with Jesus Christ. Would you tell us about it?”

It is that simple! That is how to ensure “good fellowship.” Have Jesus in common first and foremost. Anything else you have in common may only detract. Society puts up rules as obstacles to fellowship. Do not be shy. Don’t be polite. Be real!

After Senator Hughes put Chuck Colson on the spot, with a gulp Chuck began to explain how he had come to faith in Christ. He ended his testimony of meeting Christ with, “As a new Christian I have everything to learn, I know that. I’m grateful for any help you can give me.” Then he writes:

“For a moment there was silence. Harold, whose face had been enigmatic while I talked, suddenly lifted both hands in the air and brought them down hard on his knees. ‘That’s all I need to know. Chuck, you have accepted Jesus and He has forgiven you. I do the same. I love you now as my brother in Christ. I will stand with you, defend you anywhere, and trust you with anything I have.’ ”

All the running around and trying to make it all comfortable before we dip our toes into fellowship, is robbing us of the experience itself. I love what C.S. Lewis said about fellowship:

“The rule for all of us is perfectly simple. Do not waste time bothering whether you “love” your neighbor; act as if you did.”

1 comment:

Chi My said...

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