The Missing Depth of Christian Fellowship
I've unfortunately noticed a common theme in modern Christianity. We strive for comfort. We like routine, stability, and predictability. We attend church services and gather around the coffee/snacks sharing friendly conversation.
"This muffin is the bomb diggity!" (Maybe that last one is just me...)
These friendly discussions seem harmless. In fact, they are downright polite! What could possibly be wrong with making friendly conversation? We are showing interest in each other's lives and filling time before the service. Sound familiar? I far too often find myself in this same routine. I will reach out to visitors and people I don't see often and ask how they are doing. But are we really being honest with one another? Are we asking the questions that need to be asked? We are participating in fellowship, but not the Biblical standards for it.
When someone asks about our weekend, do we tell them that we spent Friday night at home suffocated by loneliness?
When someone asks about our job, do we tell them that we are being smothered and dread every minute there?
When someone notices our haircut, do we share that we are so unsatisfied with our appearance that it has led to self-abuse?
Most likely not.
Why not? Well for one it might scare people away. No one just comes out and admits these things to people. It takes trust, safety, and support. All things that we as Christians should be able to offer each other. Instead we run away from the hard conversations. We turn our backs on those who hint at trouble, and we scoff at those who actually admit sins they are struggling with. News flash: no one is free from sin and the struggles that go along with it.
I've been a Christian for my whole life and have always had Christian friends, but it wasn't until recently that I have started being challenged by my friends. I have had hard discussions and opened myself up for their insight and prayers. I had no idea what depths Christian fellowship can reach.
The early church thrived on fellowship. Paul's letters alone are a testimony to the love and care the earliest Christians showed to one another. We are here to further God's kingdom. That means reaching those who don't know about God and encouraging those who DO know to persevere in their faith. Unfortunately faith is not a one time achievement. It is a constant ebb and flow of trust, doubt, sin, grace, and repeat. Encourage each other. Have the hard but necessary talks.
Reaching out to one another is a great first step, but don't be afraid to take it farther. Once you develop a relationship with fellow believers, how can you transition into a more solid connection? Here are some insightful questions you can ask to deepen relationships, provide accountability, and ultimately care for others:
How can I pray for you this week?
In what ways have you noticed God at work in your life recently?
How did you practice joy this week? Have you had a thankful attitude toward God?
What do you think your ministry is? Are there ways you have been serving others or would like to serve?
Do you have any spiritual victories I can rejoice with you for? What about spiritual struggles?
How is your relationship with Christ changing?
Once you've established a connection, explore more personal questions:
What blocks your growth in Christ?
How has your time in the word/prayer been?
What sins have you been struggling with?
What did you do to enhance your relationship with your spouse/friends? What can you do to make that relationship better?
Are you withholding forgiveness from anyone?
Have you managed your tongue? (regarding gossip, swearing, unkind words, etc.)
Ultimately, reaching out to others is a great way to start these relationships. Be kind and show genuine interest in those around you. The above questions are tough and intrusive which goes against our natural instinct to protect ourselves. It will take trust, and it will take time in order to have these types of conversations. I've seen them work best in close friendships and small groups. It will be tough. It will be challenging. But it will also be worth it. Open yourself up to those God has placed in your life and allow yourself to grow in your relationship with Christ and with others.
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- Olivia Peitsch