Tag Archives: small groups

How to build others up in the faith – Jude 17-25, Part 2

1 Oct
Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash

Are you building others up? What does it mean to build others up? In th previous post I mentioned that there are Christian phrases that we use but maybe don’t fully understand. Today we’re looking at the phrase “build each other up.” Are you building others up in the faith?

Yesterday we began our series on Jude 17-25, studying another Christian phrase Jude mentions: last times. As we continue in this post, Jude talks about what we will see in the end times. Take a look at what he says in verses 18-19.  There he briefly repeats a description of the ungodly impostors he talked about in verses 1-16, which we studied last week.

Jude describes them as scoffers who follow their own ungodly desires, divide the church, follow mere natural instincts, and who do not have the Spirit.  What Jude is saying is that the church should not be surprised by the presence of ungodly impostors among them because the apostles had predicted it would happen. 

When we discussed this in our sermon roundtable (a kind of weekly Bible study that discusses sermons 10 days before they are preached) a few weeks ago, one person asked an interesting question: “What might make a church vulnerable to people like this?”  Think about that.  You have a church filled with Christians, and those Christians allow ungodly scoffers to be a part of the church.  How can that be?

Last week I mentioned that perhaps we could question Jude by asking, “But shouldn’t we want ungodly people in the church so that they can learn about the Lord?”  On one hand I get that, and I would generally say, yes, we do want everyone to come to our fellowship to hear the good news about Jesus.  But there is more to the story. Look at the way Jude describes these ungodly impostors.  They divide the church.  They are malicious.  They are not genuinely interested in seeking truth.  Instead they are actively seeking to tear down the church.  So while the church should be a place where people can meet Jesus, there are some people who are simply malicious in their intent, and Jude is saying that the church needs to deal with them. 

With that said, are there aspects of a church that would make a church vulnerable to being infiltrated by people who are malicious?  At sermon roundtable we speculated that if church has spiritual boredom or apathy, or maybe poor teaching, it could be susceptible to this.  Thus that church would be showing that they are not ready for the last times, as Jesus taught us to be. And that is exactly where Jude goes next.  

In verse 20 we see how Jude begins to answer the question, how do we show we are ready for the end times?

First he says, build yourselves up in the faith.

Discipleship is all about building up yourself and others in the faith.  It requires regular immersion in Scripture, applying God’s word to your life.  Not just reading it or listening to sermons, but doing what it says, as Jude’s brother James writes in his letter (see James 1:22). 

We also build each other up through Christian fellowship and community, encouraging one another.  This is why it is so important that everyone in the church belong to a small group of some kind. In the old days of the evangelical church, they had weekly home gatherings called class meetings, and they would ask one another, “how goes it with your soul?”

Are you a part of a group like that? Here are some questions that a group could be asking one another:

  • What are you reading in your Bible?
  • How is your prayer life?
  • What is something you are thanking God for this week?
  • What is something God is convicting you of right now?
  • How are you choosing joy this week?
  • What can we pray about?

If this is totally foreign to your group, perhaps you could make it a goal to work towards, implemented slowly and gradually.  Additionally, group members could check in with each other at least once between meetings (text, call, email, face-to-face, etc.) to see how they are doing, again utilizing these questions as a follow-up to what was brought up at the face-to-face meetings.  Do you see how questions like these can encourage growth in discipleship to Jesus? Participation in a group like that is one of the best ways to build each other up in the faith. 

Defining true Christian fellowship – Philemon 1-7, Part 4

22 Aug
Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

What is fellowship? How does it look in your life, in your church? How do you know if you are doing it right? As we have seen in our study through Philemon verses 1-7, Paul has been giving his friend Philemon feedback on what Philemon has done with his life. Paul has many nice compliments for Philemon (see Parts 1, 2, and 3 for what we have covered previously). We’ve arrived at verse 6, and Paul is far from the end of his encouragement to Philemon. Is Philemon fellowshipping right?

In verse 6 we face a problem, though, as scholars tell us it is difficult to translate.  Here’s how the NIV 1984 translates it:

I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

Paul, to Philemon (Philemon 6, NIV 1984)

When you read the words, “sharing your faith,” what comes to mind? Evangelism, right? Sharing the Gospel. Some kind of proclamation of the content of the good news of Jesus. But most scholars believe that is not what Paul is talking about. 

For the word “sharing,” Paul uses the word koinonia.  It is a Greek word that carries the idea of sharing.  But more commonly it is translated in the New Testament using the English word: “fellowship”.  Paul, therefore, is talking about the fellowship of our faith.

What is fellowship?  Churches are sometimes called fellowships.  Faith Church has a room in our building called a fellowship hall, and we also have a Fellowship Serve Team, which is responsible for, among many other things, administration of our kitchen and meals. So there seems to be a connection between fellowship and food.  Fellowship is not equal with food, but the two concepts are connected because of what so often happens around a table of food.  People talk.  People open up.  They share life.  Fellowship is about close relationship.

There are also times in the New Testament when this word is translated as “participation.”  In other words, there is no way we can truly have a fellowship of faith by just meeting together on Sunday mornings.  Sunday mornings are important, and they should launch us into a life of worship and fellowship.  This is why I really encourage you to participate in groups.  Place yourself in settings like Sunday School classes, and small groups, and ministry teams where you can develop deeper relationships.  But fellowship doesn’t stop there.  Fellowship means you invite people in your home, take them out to coffee or lunch, and going deep.  It is one reason why I love our informal runner’s group at Faith Church.  We train together, talk about how race prep is going, hang out, run races, and more than that, we share life. 

So if that is what fellowship is, sharing life together, what is Paul trying to say in verse 6?  One bible commentator, NT Wright explains this a lot more clearly. He points us to Paul’s mention of Jesus in verse 6:

“Paul uses ‘Christ’ here, as in some other passages, as a shorthand for the full and mature life of those ‘in Christ’, so that ‘unto Christ’ refers to the growth of the church towards that goal. Paul’s desire is that the fact of mutual participation, enjoyed by Philemon and his fellow Christians, will result in the full blessing of being ‘in Christ’, i.e. the full unity of the body of Christ.”[1] 

N. T. Wright

What a wonderful picture of what the fellowship of faith can accomplish!  Our fellowship motivates us toward discipleship. Again, Paul is setting a stage.  He wants Philemon to agree with him that all Christians can enjoy the mutual participation of being in Christ, just like Philemon and the other Christians in Colosse enjoy.  Paul is nearly ready to explain why he is talking about this.  He is building toward the “therefore” in verse 8.  For now, we simply need to see what Paul is saying as really important.  Churches should have as their goal that the people in the church grow a more and more mature life in Christ, such that all can mutually participate together in the blessing of being in Christ.  Paul is talking about the strong bond of a church family. 

How can you strengthen the bonds of your church family? Are you participating in a group? What will it look like for you to be more like Philemon?


[1] N. T. Wright, Colossians and Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary, vol. 12, Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1986), 183.

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?