Summary: Building God’s Church through Fellowship(Bob Russell - When God Build’s a Church)

In honor of all those folks who say that they are closer to God on a gulf course than they are in a church, here is the 23rd Psalm for golfers.

The Pro is my Shepherd,

I shall not Slice.

He maketh me to Drive Straight

Down Green Fairways;

He leadeth me Safely

across Still Water-Hazards;

He restoreth my Approach Shots.

He Leadeth me in the Paths of

Accuracy for my Game’s Sake.

Yea, though I chip through the Roughs

in the shadows of Sand Traps,

I will fear no Bogies.

For his Advice is with me;

His Putter and Irons,

they confort me.

He prepareth my Strategy for me

in the presence of mine Opponents;

He anointeth my head with Confidence:

The Cup will not be runneth over!

Surely Birdies and Eagles shall follow

me all the Rounds of my Life,

And I will score in the Low Eighties forever.

This is the eighth sermon in our series “Building God’s Church” which is loosely based on Bob Russell’s book “When God Builds a Church.” Today’s topic is Fellowship.

This is the one chapter in Russell’s book that I think we might have safely skipped. Park is one of the most caring and supportive congregations that I have ever seen. The people here today understand what a loving Christian fellowship is about. I don’t need to convince you. There are people who are members of Park who don’t understand the importance of fellowship, but they aren’t here and they aren’t listening to me. So what can I tell you, the folks who are here about fellowship?

One question is why is fellowship so important to building a growing church?

When surveys are done asking people why they first came to their church, the number one answer is that they were invited by a friend. Still, there are other answers that you get and there are other things that churches can do to get people in the door. They can advertise. They can have special programs. They can have outreach programs.

But when you ask church members why they stay with a particular church there really is only one answer. They never say that they stay because of the outstanding preaching or the wonderful music. They don’t stay for the teaching or the decorations. They don’t stay for the special programs. When you ask people why they stay at a church, the overwhelming answer is they stay because of the relationships that they have with other members. They talk about how church people were there in a time of difficulty. They talk about the love that church members have for each other.

People come to a church for a lot of reasons. People stay at a church because of the fellowship.

I have mentioned before that church participation is declining in America. Church attendance is dropping at a rate of about 2% a year. One might conclude from that that the number of people who believe in God or who are interested in spirituality is also in decline. That actually is not the case. People still face the same spiritual questions that they have always had; it is just that they don’t see the church as part of the answer. For them, a spiritual quest is a personal thing. They look for answers in books, on the internet, or on TV. They are not looking to us.

As we have discussed, part of that is the church’s fault. We have not done a good job in relating to our changing culture. Still, part of the issue is in changes in our society itself.

How often have you heard someone say that they feel closer to God looking at a sunset or walking through the woods or even playing a round of gulf than they do at church? A few years back there was a saying going around “Christianity Yes – Churchianity No.”

A 1999 article in USA Today said

[12/23/1999 USA Today]

For many people, God has been detached from religion. Where once a community of believers shared a common vocabulary, many feel free to define God by their own lights. The survey finds a largely Christian nation partaking of the feast of faith – its challenge, inspiration and comfort – a la carte. Denominational lines are blurring and church-free spirituality is on the rise.

One man talks about being turned off by “the hypocrisy of organized religion. I have deep moral beliefs about what is right and wrong. I try to live my life with integrity. I don’t feel that I need to belong to any organized church to do that.”

[end of 12/23/1999 USA Today]

So do we need the local church anymore? Maybe the church was necessary before people were educated enough to study things for themselves. Maybe the church was necessary before we had other technologies for sharing ideas and information. Maybe the time of the church is passed.

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