How would you say your church does at loving one another deeply from the heart? Today and tomorrow I’m going to talk about Faith Church, where I serve, and how we are doing loving one another. We’re not a perfect church, and we will look at some ways we need to improve, but I am also convinced that Faith Church is a loving church, and we are doing many things well. My desire in sharing about Faith Church is that perhaps all Christians and all churches can evaluate their own church families.
This week we have been looking at 1st Peter 1:21-25 and we have found that Peter is teaching Christians how they are a new family with a priority to love one another deeply. You can read the previous posts here and here.
Now nearly 2000 years later, the same calling exists for us. In our local churches, we must love one another deeply from the heart, thus creating a new real family.
Years ago we, Faith Church, updated our church mission statement and we decided it should focus on four key areas: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship and Outreach. It is the Fellowship area that most relates to what Peter is talking about. Here is what our mission statement says about Fellowship:
Fellowship – Being a Community of Love – We work toward loving one another, building authentic, accountable, healthy relationships.
I want to say I am very encouraged by how I see this happening. Here’s how I see Faith Church doing great loving one another.
First of all, about 70% of our church family is involved in small groups. We call them Care Groups, and they are about 8-12 people meeting regularly in one another homes, often sharing a meal together, and caring for one another through honest communication, prayer and discussion. This is incredibly important. Most of our groups meet once/month. That alone is fairly infrequent, and slows down the relationship development process. If you miss one month, it can be two months until you hang out. May I make a recommendation? Start meeting more often. If you are unable to meet more often, check in with one another throughout the month. Put a priority on getting face to face and catching up, even if it is just two of you. Also consider using technology, like texting or social media, to connect with one another between meetings. When you do meet as a small group, or as individuals, ask yourself: are you sharing honestly with each other and then following up with how things are going? Don’t wait for another person to do that within your group, you be the one to do it!
Our church leadership team is attempting to show loving care for the church family through what we call our Growth Process. (You can also learn about how our church logo tells the story of our Growth Process here.) The heart of the Growth Process is that our leaders want to help every adult in our church to move forward, or grow, in their relationship with Jesus. So we endeavor to get in touch with them a few times each year to check in and see how they are doing. Maybe there is some way we can point them toward a mentor who can guide them to go deeper in their relationship with Jesus. Maybe there is some way we can pray for them.
Another wonderful way that I see Faith Church loving one another is through meals. We have a ton of people making meals that go out when someone is ill, recovering from surgery, or just had a baby. Our Fellowship Serve Team sets up an online sign-up sheet, and it is amazing to watch how quickly people volunteer to sign up. Out of your love for one another, you make a meal and then deliver it to the family in need. I love when this comes full circle, and the recipient of the meals stands up during our worship service sharing time and expresses how they felt the love of the church family through receiving meals!
We also have Family nights 6-8 times each year. On the first Wednesday night of most months, fall through spring, our Fellowship Serve Team makes a meal, and we gather in our fellowship hall to eat and talk, just to get to know one another better and catch up. (Have you noticed how food seems to be a centerpiece in this post?) Simply put, loving relationships take time. Over the years, I’ve heard that when it comes to relationships we should put a priority on quality time over quantity of time. But I have found that it often takes a large quantity of time to achieve quality time. This is why availing yourself of additional opportunities to connect with people, be it small groups or Family nights, is vital to building loving relationships in the church. And I am so thankful how I see that happening in our Faith Church family.
Another thing I am so impressed with when I look at the family of Faith Church is how many visit others, especially visiting those who are sick in the hospital or who are homebound. A couple weeks ago, one our oldest living member passed away. Betty was 99 years old, just four months shy of her 100th birthday. She lived in a local retirement village, and for years, one of our Faith Church family visited her weekly. Dee would decorate Betty’s door for each season, bring her news of the church family, and care for her. We need more of that, and our Leadership Team recently talked about making a Visitation Team that will coordinate efforts to visit.
Thus far in the post, I have talked about formal ways that our church strives to gather and love one another. I know there is much happening informally too. We have people that on their own meet for coffee or lunch and praying for one another. They are accountability partners. They are prayer partners. They are friends. Do you have someone within your church family that you can share honestly with? If you do, that’s excellent! That’s more than some people have within their “real” families!
And by the way, in a series of posts where I am saying that the church should be a family, it is important that I pause and talk about real families. I’m saying this because if you have a close friend you can share deeply with, that could be more than what some people have in their real families.
We need to be realistic about families. There is no perfect family. There are members of families that don’t agree, and there are some that seem to agree about everything. There are some that are best of friends, while some only speak once or twice a month, or maybe not at all. There is laughter and there are tears in families. There are some members that work harder at relationship than others. There are misunderstandings, there are differing personalities. Family is made up of people. People will inspire, they will disappoint, and through it all we will hopefully keep trying, working and striving to be our best selves with each other, even if that looks different with each family member.
How can you love your church family more deeply?