Summary: The nature of Fellowship and why we mess it up so badly
An interview with Tia and Tamara Mowry, the stars of WB’s Sister, Sister yielded a very mature comment from these then 19 years old. One of them said (they’re exact twins); “A lot of girls expect this prince to come into their life on a white horse and make everything wonderful. What the Lord told me was, ‘First you have to get right with me then I’ll send the right person.’” Now I mention this not because of the comment on dating or God’s will but because it demonstrates a proper approach to life as a whole. It reminds me of what Jesus’ words, “Seek first the Kingdom of Heaven and all these things (the things you need) will be added to you.”
Integral to our being a disciple, a follower of Jesus, is the notion of “fellowship”. Now fellowship isn’t a word heard much outside of religious gatherings. In fact, 33 of the first 40 hits in an Internet search all came up with religious links for the word. In the Bible fellowship means “to have in common”. And here is the beginning of our problem with fellowship both in and outside of the church.
Let me paint three very broad pictures for you of people who walk out of churches every week. These folks leave Presbyterian, Baptist, Catholic and independent churches and often the excuse they will give will center on the “fellowship” they didn’t feel they had in that particular church. Of the hundreds of examples let me mention three types of people who I have dealt with and visited with others pastors about.
The first group are those who attend church but always keep “their own beliefs” equal with what God says is true. They never let the Bible, the Holy Spirit, or other sisters and brothers in Christ challenge them. They may describe themselves as “open-minded, progressive, or non-dogmatic” when in fact deep down they just don’t want to submit themselves to Jesus.
They hear Jesus say, “I am the way, the truth and the life” and say, “but I believe there are other ways to get to God.” They may be friendly enough to others but when theology or the Bible is begun to be taken seriously they bail because it feels as if the people aren’t ‘thinking for themselves’.
A second group pulls away from the church because they are comfortable in a lifestyle of sin. If you haven’t discovered it yet folks, sin is fun! Sin feels good! If it didn’t we wouldn’t be so prone to do the same things over and over and over again. But these folks have decided that they want to continue in actions and thoughts that dishonor Christ and soon they find themselves with less and less in common with the people in the church. And the sin can be anything from adultery to gossip from envy to racial hatred. They can be addicted to a job, cocaine, a desire to have a good family, or alcohol. They can show to the world a nice middle-class family and at home live lives of hatred toward their spouse and children.
What happens is that when God’s word is preached and the Holy Spirit starts to talk to these folks about changes that need to take place they withdraw. I had a person who was living in an adulterous relationship confront me in my office with the statement, “Well you think I’m living in sin.” To which I responded, “I never used the word sin you did!” Others have accused the church of being judgmental or not loving.
In short they often complain about a lack of fellowship among the Body of Christ. They will say things like, “well what I’m doing isn’t as bad as what so and so did.” Or “I don’t see what the big deal is, after all it’s my life.” What actually is happening for many of them is that their own guilt moves them away from others and since they don’t want to blame God they blame other people.
The third group leaves their congregations because it’s not doing what they like or want it to do. As they leave the comments usually heard by their friends and pastor are, “things use to be…” Their desires and wants, their tastes and liking had been the norm for so long that they had equated them with what is right, best, and the only way of being. These folks will listen to a sermon on the great commission and think if we could only find 200 more people who looked like us, dressed like us, behaved like us, etc. And let me quickly add that these type of people can be 30 years old as well as 80 years old.
When they hear Paul tell the church, “If anyone is in Christ they are a new creation” they think, “but I like me the way I am. I don’t want to change. I don’t have to change after all I’ve been a member here since…”