What is Fellowship?
Fellowship is more than just being in the same room as someone else or even saying “hello” to those that are around us. Fellowship is found not in the halls that we meet nor in the restaurants that have great atmosphere. Fellowship is the sharing of lives. It is coming to a place where those that at one time were strangers to us have now become family. When those people that before we would have seen only once in a while, now for some reason we find yourself thinking about and wanting to be around them more and more. Fellowship is the process where two or more people’s lives becomes a part of our own life.
I do not mean that another person is being nosy or trying to run or ruin our life. But, when another person becomes a loved one, so that you hurt because they hurt, that is fellowship. It is not an easy road to travel, the one called fellowship. It is a slow and sometimes hurtful journey to bring people in that close. It is not easy, but there is something about being able to share with someone, about having that outside influence and strength. Will we be able to have fellowship with everyone in the church? The truth is no, that is not possible, but what are we doing to reach out and invite in those that we can?
Why Is Fellowship Important?
Growth only happens in an environment where trust exists. If we do not trust those that are around us will we be able to grow and feel safe? One of the most difficult things about growing in faith is being able to share our genuine concerns and know that they will not become the talk of the town, or worse the church. We cannot worship in an environment where we feel that we are being singled out. Trust is built by being trustworthy. Love is known by being loving. Fellowship comes when we are neighbors to strangers and family to friends. This may seem like a difficult way of doing it but that is what Jesus did for us. The apostle Paul writes it this way, “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8; NKJV).
A large part of what makes fellowship what it ought to be comes from the way that we react to the people and circumstances that are around us. Do we want fellowship to exist? Then let us be the first to exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. These are the tools that we are to use to create an environment that will produce fellowship. To answer the question a little more direct, “Why is fellowship important?” we need to understand that it is in the context of fellowship that we love one another and that people will know that we are Christ’s disciples (John 13:35; NKJV).
How Do We Sustain Fellowship?
Here is where the rubber meets the road so to speak. How do we go about sustaining fellowship within a body? The word that comes to mind is sincerity. If true and lasting fellowship is going to exist there has to be sincerity among those that are acting and doing within the body. If what you do is half-hearted or selfish, fellowship will not grow and it will die quickly if these things come into the body of Christ.
Fellowship will happen when we decide that we are really going to care about those that come to our church, whether visitor or member, and we will love them with the love of God.
We All Have Growing Pains
I remember waking up in the middle of the night with a pain shooting up both of my shins. I thought someone had come into my room and had hit me as hard as they could. It was as if a vice had been place across my shins and where being tightened and then loosened over and over again. I had never felt pain like that in my life. Now, I was about twelve, so I did not have a lot of other moments to compare it too. The next morning, I told my mom what happened and she told me that it was a normal part of getting bigger. They were just “growing pains.”
Well, it has been a long time since I had physical growing pains, but the experience has not changed as I have gotten older. The growing pains that I go through now, however, are spiritual, personal and emotional rather than physical. I am constantly learning new things about myself and others. Some of them are better than others. Some of them, I wish I never had to go through, but I would not change it even when it was my fault.
Growing pains are not meant to be fun, but they are necessary. They are a sign that you are alive and that you are not perfect. Both of these are good things. The challenge is to be an active participant in the process. We have to accept the pains as a reality we have to learn to deal with because there will never be just one. And because of that we may lean in the direction of quitting or giving up rather than fighting through.
My pastor told me as I sat across from him in his office during my annual staff review, “We all have growing edges.” A growing edge is that place where you have to improve, get better. We all have them. We do not always see them. That is why we need someone to remind us of where we need to grow. The same is true in the church. As a whole we all have to grow together, together. This is what makes a church’s growing pains difficult. They are difficult because they involve more than one person. And all of these people may not always be on the same page.
Over the next several weeks we will look at seven growing pains. Each of these areas are important because they are the visible realities of our faith expression. At any given time any person that is not a Christian, not a part of the body of Christ will come in contact with a believer who may be (should be?) engaging in one of these activities. It is at these times that we discover where we are and whether or not we are moving towards where we need to be.
My mom’s explanation helped be to understand what I was going through. My hope is that over the next few weeks we will see the purpose of these pains and find a way to endure and grow to see the benefits of what is happening even when we don’t always enjoy it.
This morning I was making a deposit at the bank. It was a personal trip. I had written out the deposit slip and was patiently waiting for my receipt. I don’t know if other people do this, but I try to always check the deposit to make sure it’s right. It’s not that I don’t trust the folks at the bank. I just know that mistakes can be made. Well, this morning a mistake was made, but it was made in my favor.
I was about to pull off and I noticed that there was too much money on my receipt. I had a decision to make (well, not really. I knew what I needed to do). I pressed the “call” button and asked the cashier to double check the checks I had given. She looked slightly confused. Continue reading Integrity on the Cheap