Summary: How to build deep and meaningful relationships in your life and church.
“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, in our likeness…” (Genesis 1:26)
“Jesus went into the hills and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him”
“Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name-the name you gave me-so that they may be one as we are one…”(John 17:11b)
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! 11Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? 12Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.
The chief executive of a large and successful chain of stores made a striking statement about the future of his company. He said that a hundred years from now it would be either greatly changed or nonexistent.1 The same can be said about any church. If a church fails to change with the times, it will become irrelevant to the people it is working so hard to reach. Because of this truth, the ministry staff of Marysville First Assembly is committed to helping people establish life-changing relationships in the body of Christ.
Marysville First is making a bold declaration: God wants us to become a church where No One Stands Alone. This phrase is not original with us. It was coined by Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago. To pull this off, the ministry staff will have to establish a place where real fellowship is experienced. Now when you talk about fellowship, you are almost always referring to food, socializing, and superficial conversation. Have you ever been asked the question, “Where do you fellowship?” which translated means, “Where do you go to church?”
As a kid in a Baptist church, once a month after the morning service we had a fellowship hour. The congregation would immediately retire to the basement fellowship hall (there’s that word again), a room used for talking and eating, for cookies and conversation. When you’re twelve, you’re mostly interested in the cookies. The fellowship hour was really an invitation to stay after church for refreshments.
If you want to experience the genuine thing when it comes to fellowship, you have to be committed to fulfilling four qualities of real life together: mutual effort, mutual support, mutual encouragement, and mutual strength. Each of these qualities is found in the fourth chapter of Ecclesiastes; we’ll visit them a little later.
The Bible teaches us that the rhythm of a believer’s life should flow back and forth between the temple courts and meeting house-to-house.
“Everyday they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:46 - NIV)
This verse reminds us that we worship with a crowd, but we fellowship with a group. Say that with me - we worship with a crowd, but we fellowship with a group. This is a critical insight. Some believers go their whole lives and never learn this principle. When it comes to worship, size is important; the larger the crowd the greater the potential for sensing the presence of God. Have you noticed how wonderful it is to worship in a packed house? All the voices lifted heavenward to the Almighty. It sends chills down your spine. You stand in awe! You hope the moment never ends. Wouldn’t it be great if we could take this with us all week?
But when it comes to fellowship and building community, small is best. It is impossible to experience true community in a crowd. Relationships break down in a crowd. A crowd is not a congregation. An audience is not an army. You were created by God to move from a crowd to a community. This community is often called a small group - a Sunday school class, a fellowship group, a Bible study, a prayer group, or a support group. This is where real fellowship takes place, not in large church services.
Jesus went back and forth between the crowd and the small group. He limited the number to 12. You see, once a group gets larger than 10, several social dynamics take over. First, strong leaders start to dominate. Second, quiet and shy people shut down. Finally, the tension to stay casual gives way to the desire to be religious and church-like.
God has great blessings that are released to you when you participate in a small group setting:
“And when two or three of you are gathered together because of me, you can be sure that I’ll be there.” (Matthew 18:20 - MSG)