Tag Archives: fellowship

6 ways a church family can love one another

20 Jun

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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?

How to rehab a relationship

1 Aug

Do you have relationships that need rehab?  There is help!  Fellowship!

In the very first account of how the earliest Christians interacted with one another, Acts 2:42-47, we read that they devoted themselves to the fellowship?  What is fellowship?

That word “fellowship” in verse 42 is defined by Louw & Nida as “an association involving close mutual relations and involvement.”

This passage describes how these first Christians practiced fellowship.  They clearly had close mutual relations and involvement.  Their relationships went far beyond just seeing people for an hour or so on a Sunday morning at church.  They didn’t have Sunday morning church.  They had no church building. Instead we read that they were together often, meeting in the temple in Jerusalem (presumably for larger group gatherings), and then sharing meals in homes.  Everyday.

When you read the whole description, they were sharing not just meals, but their whole lives.

Jump ahead a few chapters to Acts 4:32-37, and here we see more information about how the first Christians shared life together.  People would sell off property in order to raise cash to help those in need!  They saw none of their possessions as exclusively theirs, but as capital they liquidate if needed to help the suffering.

From Acts 2 to Acts 4 our best estimates are that only a few months have gone by from the very first day of the church.  That means Jesus was still very, very close in their hearts and minds.  And what are these first Christians doing? They are following his teaching.  We’ve seen how they are interacting with one another.  Why did they do this?  Jesus taught them to! What did he teach them?

In the final hours before he was arrested, put on trial and killed, John 13:34-35 tells us about the last teaching that Jesus gave his disciples: “A new command I give you: love one another as I have loved you.  By this all men will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.”

Relationships in the church, Jesus taught, should be clearly known by love.  Can it be said of you that you are loving the people in your church?  How do we practice this love?

In Romans 12:9-21 Paul says “weep with those who weep, mourn with those who mourn.”  We need to walk with people through the difficult aspects life.  We need to be there for them to talk, we need to listen, we need to allow them to face sorrow knowing that people who love them are right by their side.

In that same passage Paul also says “rejoice with those who rejoice.”  Loving relationships include celebration. Lots of celebrations happen for married people (bridal and baby showers, etc). But what about celebrating people and events that would be considered unconventional in our culture?  The church needs to celebrate singles as well, when you get jobs, new houses, or achieve accomplishments.  We also need to spectate at your hobbies, your sports, your extracirriculars.  We churches should throw more parties!

We can also look to deepen relationships.  Like the early church, one excellent way to deepen relationships is to have people over to your homes.  Get to know them.   Start with the people in your Sunday School class.  Invite them to your home!  Maybe then move on to the people in your small group.  Who are you doing life with?  Who are you caring for in ways that push your comfort zone a little bit?  Call them, text them, email them, go out for coffee.  Take the initiative to care for them.  Fellowship has to go beyond the structured programs.

Certainly not all people and all personalities aren’t going to be best of friends.  Some personalities connect more easily with others.  For example, Jesus, though he had hundreds of followers, focused on twelve.  Within that 12, he focused on his inner circle of three: Peter, James and John.  And even within that three, there was one who was called his Beloved, his best friend, John.  But Jesus was certainly focusing on others, doing life with them, sharing meals, talking through real life issues, and he did that for more than 1 or 2 hours a week.

Are you doing life together with people like the early church did, like Jesus did?

In this Growth Process sermon series, I said in the last sermon that Jesus doesn’t just want Sunday morning worshipers, he wants people to worship with their entire lives.  That means moving on to Fellowship.

But Fellowship isn’t just hanging out with people on a Sunday morning for 15 minutes, or even going to the church picnic or Family Night.  The kind of Fellowship that Jesus desires for his followers must be marked by “love one another”.

I’m not saying that you have to be best friends with everyone in your church family.  That’s not possible, even for a congregation that is less than 50 people.  But it is possible to get really close to a smaller group.

So have you moved beyond being a Sunday morning worshiper to becoming a fellowshipper?

How does a disciple of Jesus move beyond just Sunday morning fellowship into “love one another” and “life together”?

Examine your life and your relationships.  Pour your life into one other.  Love and reach out to those who are more difficult for your personality to love.  And to those who you are already in relationship with, seek to go deeper, interact more. Pray for and encourage one another on a new level.

Do you have relationships that need rehab?

28 Jul

Do you have any people in your life that you feel are just hard to get along with?  Think about the people in your family.  Any family members rub you the wrong way?  What about school?  Is there a person that you really struggle with?  Maybe that classmate, when you see that they are in your class, you immediately know that class is going to be a drag?  Maybe they are the know-it-all who raises their hand constantly to answer questions.  Or maybe they raise their hand to ask a million questions, and you think to yourself “just let the teacher teach!”  Or maybe it is the teacher that you don’t like.  Their style, their voice, their mannerisms.  Is it your co-worker or your boss?  Many of those same tendencies that bugged us about students and teachers are the same tendencies that irritate us about our co-workers or our boss.  The group projects where one person is lazy.  The boss or teacher that is demanding.  The classmate or coworker that is loud and boisterous and arrogant.

But thank God we never have these issues in the church.

Ha!

You’re laughing…or you should be…why?  Because we DO have the same problems.  As many pastors joke, the church would be great except for the people.  That’s funny because the church is the people, and the pastor is one of the people too.  I am the pastor, and I might be the one you think is difficult!  I hope not, but I know it can be true because of interactions I’ve had with people in the past.  I’ve been at Faith Church nearly 14 years.  In that time I’ve seen many times that it is impossible to please all the people all the time.

But I want you to be clear that I believe about myself something the great English writer G.K. Chesterton is said to have written in a letter to the editor.  A British newspaper asked for people to write letters answering the question “What’s wrong with the world today?”  Lots of people responded with many ideas, but it was Chesterton’s reply that was the most memorable…and the shortest.  What’s wrong with the world today?  Chesterton answered “Dear Sir, I am.  Yours, G. K. Chesterton.”

So we do have issues in our relationships in the church, all churches do, and I would be remiss if I didn’t see myself as part of it.  I also want to be part of the solution.

You may have heard the comment that if you found the perfect church, don’t join it.  The moment you would join it, it would cease to be perfect.  There is no perfect church.  Because you and I are a part of it.

What is all this suggesting?  That relationships in the church can be hard.  We people can rub each other the wrong way, offend one another, hurt each other.  But relationships in the church can also be wonderful.  This coming Sunday we continue our series called Our Growth Process.  We’re at Step 2 – Fellowship, which is all about relationships in the church.

As you get ready for gathering for worship on Sunday, I want to ask you, who are the people in your church family that you have the hardest time with?  Just visualize them.  And pray that God will speak to you about your relationship with them.

Join us on Sunday at Faith Church to learn more!

That time I accidentally said “fart” in my State of Faith Church sermon…and some other things as well

20 Nov

As I mentioned last week, this past Sunday I gave my State of the Church address.  As you’ll read below I talked about discipleship and simplicity, but also farts.  Yeah, you read that title right.  Farts.  But I didn’t talk about it on purpose.  Fast forward to minute 19:00, and listen in from there.  Right in the middle of a discussion of discipleship, I let it slip…  Let the hilarity ensue. If only you could have seen how many people were snickering, smiling from ear to ear, red-faced and shaking. It was crazy! Oops

And now back to the State of the Church.  I did say “fart” and a bunch of other things too!

I started by mentioning our church mission statement: Loving God, Loving People, and how we express that four ways: Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship and Outreach.

Notice the logical flow in them? Most people make their point of first contact with the family of Faith Church through worship on Sunday morning. Doesn’t have to be that way, but it usually is. And we would be remiss if all people did was enter our doors, sit in a pew and worship. Instead we desire them to go deeper, to become a part of the family. That requires the next step, Fellowship.   We want to see people build loving relationships in the church. That will happen primarily through Care Groups. But Jesus calls us to go deeper yet, to answer the call to discipleship. That means studying the Bible and learning how to implement it in all parts of our lives. When the Discipleship Commission asks “what does it mean to be a disciple-making church” we’re talking about this. Finally, disciples will want to serve, to reach out, to make more disciples.

Where are you on the four steps? We want to see you progress, grow, mature, moving from a worshipper to a disciple who is reaching out.

I also talked about a couple of our Core Values that we need to focus on: intentional simplicity and passionate spirituality. We need to be a church that practices “less is more” philosophy.  In our society “more is more”.  But maybe there is a scary downside to “more is more” philosophy.  What do you think?  Could it be better to focus on doing a few things well?

What should it look like for Faith Church to simplify?  Feel free to share your thoughts!

 

 

The Monday Messy Office Report – February 10, 2014

10 Feb

My Friday, tidy office is mysteriously messy by Monday.  Here’s what I found today:

1. Two styrofoam cups with hot chocolate and stirring straws, the unmistakable evidence that my two youngest children stopped by at some point yesterday morning!  Yesterday was a Coffee Break Sunday here at Faith Church, so I have to admit being a bit concerned about the timing of their visit.  Here’s why: on Coffee Break Sundays, we pause our worship service, dismiss the preschool and elementary kids to their classes, and everyone else heads to the Fellowship Hall (adjoining the sanctuary) for snacks and fellowship for about 15-20 minutes. When we first started this (we got the idea from another church), I was nervous, like I am anytime we change things up, which we try to do on a regular basis.  But people have expressed how much they enjoy it!  So back to the hot chocolate.  If my kids were dismissed to their classes, how did they get hot chocolate?  Skipping out on Sunday School?  Ha!  I suspect they got it before worship started with every intention to finish it later.  I can’t tell you how often I find half-empty cups of hot chocolate in my office…and they’re usually pretty nasty looking a day later.

2. A list of names of people interested in a community garden and a video about sustainable organic gardening.  For a couple years now, we’ve been talking about offering garden plots to neighbors in our community.  Faith Church has a huge back yard which is adjacent to a couple apartment complexes, which combined have over 600 units.  Residents living there are not able to have gardens of their own.  What if we were to cultivate a section of our grass, start garden plots, and have Faith Church gardeners serve as mentors to people in the community who would like to learn gardening?  We’re going for it!  Yesterday we had a brief meeting of people interested.  I’m excited about where this could lead.

3. An envelope marked “Confidential”.  Those envelopes always bring a knot in my stomach.  What treasure might I find inside?  In this case, I knew exactly what it was.  Every five years, we ask all of our children and youth ministry volunteers to update their serving application and have a background check.  People fill out the forms, seal them in envelopes marked “Confidential” and return them to me.  We don’t have to do this.  Our insurance company only strongly advises that we do it.  But in our culture it is a reality if we want to help our families feel confident that they are leaving their kids in a safe environment.  Interestingly, the Ethiopian Orthodox church that rents from us (meeting on Saturday mornings), doesn’t seem to be encumbered by these procedures.

4. Mail.  I often pick up Saturday’s mail on Sunday morning.  Just like you we get a LOT of junk mail at the church.  And tons of catalogs from Oriental Trading.  I’ve often wondered how much money they spend sending what seems like two catalogs every week?  On Saturday we received a mailing from our seminary about their golf tourney!  I am terrible at golf, but I love our seminary.  My eight years there (part-time) were wonderful.  The leadership, professors and staff there are doing an incredible job serving the Lord in the area of education.   The cool thing about Evangelical is that you don’t have to be a pastor or missionary to study there.  The seminary has loads of accessible learning opportunities.  Check it out here.

Now to clean this office up…

Follow up to “Instant Fellowship…in only 15 minutes a week!”

18 Sep

So is it possible to have genuine fellowship in only 15 minutes per week???

As we heard from Phil Bartelt’s sermon this past Sunday, the answer is a resounding NO!

This past June we started an 8am traditional worship service.  In the weeks following, I started hearing from people who go to the 8am service, AND from people who go to the 9:30 service, that they missed seeing each other.  This sentiment was one reason we avoided starting the additional service for many years.  We didn’t need the space; everyone could fit comfortably in our sanctuary in one service.  So we questioned, Wouldn’t a second service divide the church?  Create disunity?  Put a damper on fellowship? 

The simple answer is Yes.  You can attend the 8am service and leave the church building before most of the people arrive for the 9:30am service.  And you can come to worship at 9:30am, by which time most of the worshippers from 8am have left or are in their Sunday School class.  The two may never meet.

But does that mean fellowship has been dealt a death blow?

Not at all.  The fact that we miss people from the other service has made us realize that we need to be intentional about building relationships.  We should have had that attitude of intentionality in the first place.  We have found that having 15 minutes of fellowship gave us the false impression that we were actually connecting with one another.  It was like a shot of fellowship that inoculated us from the real thing.  Our mission statement says the fellowship is about building authentic, accountable, healthy relationships.  That’s not possible in 15 minutes per week!  Our mission statement describes relationships where people delight in being together.  If we truly miss people from the other service, then we need to be intentional about building a deep relationship with them.  Call them on the phone.  Get together for lunch or coffee.  Visit them.  Encourage them and pray for them.  Then do it again and again.  Turn that 15 minutes into an hour or two each week and watch the relationship blossom!

I urge you to ask yourself how you can apply that teaching to a relationship!

Instant Fellowship…in only 15 minutes a week!

13 Sep

At Faith Church you can get fellowship real easy and quick.  All it takes is 15 minutes a week!  Just walk into the fellowship hall on Sunday mornings after worship, and from 10:45 to 11am, you have fellowship.  There are snacks and beverages too!   Sounds great, right?

Or is there more to fellowship?

Does what happens on Sunday morning in the fellowship hall satisfy the biblical picture of fellowship?

What is fellowship?  What does it look like?

Spend a little time on Google Image search, and you’ll see images like this:

Or church names.  Or people at a meal.  Or scenes from The Fellowship of the Ring!  But what is the picture of fellowship that we should learn and practice?

In our strategic planning process we came up with this description:

Fellowship – We delight in being with one another, building authentic, accountable, healthy relationships. (John 13:34-35; 1 John 3:11-24; James 5:16)

As you get ready for our sermon and discussion on Sunday, would you take time to read these passages and think about whether or not you have fellowship in your life?