Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. … And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
~ Hebrews 10:25, KJV ~
It seems that our society is facing some frightening times. We’ve sustained life-altering losses that appear quite profound and tragic. It may appear there is no hope for recovery. However, God’s divine and sovereign grace leaves us with faith and hope. It encourages us to not only seek after him. It empowers us to seek out the help and support of family and peers. We, too, are empowered to help support those who are struggling.
There are many stories of people struggling in their faith. Many who have taken up the courage to step into church and to seek God. They bring with them fears, doubts, insecurities, challenges, trauma, and health related issues. They are broken and feel isolated and alone. They end up walking out of the Church forsaken, alone, and judged by self-righteous Christians who feel uncomfortable to having the homeless, the alcoholic, the addict, the individual who is broken and marginalized. Self-righteous Christians despise the sinners that desire to come unto Christ.
The Gospel is not a mandate to seek out those who are healthy and well (Luke 5:31-32). We are called to go out into the highways and byways (Matthew 22:9-10). To seek out those who are less fortunate. To minister to those who are broken. To sit with those who are living in sin. We are to reach those who are sick and lost.
Many times, we fail to understand the true love Our Heavenly Father has for all his Children. We fail to minister to those whom God places in our paths. They inevitably forsake others from coming into fellowship of Jesus Christ. We fail to love thy neighbor.
A Vibrant Fellowship is Much Needed Today
Over the years I have attended a variety of men’s fellowship groups within the Christian Faith. Some were quite small while others boast a good following. Some of these groups appeared to have died down and were no longer meeting. It was not until I stepped into a fellowship of those engaged in their own personal journey of recovery from alcoholism, drug use, and even some who were working on overcoming the effects of family dysfunction and addiction. There appeared to be a real difference between the men’s fellowships and the recovery support fellowships I’ve attended.
While both have had their share of newcomers coming and going one thing appeared to stand out. The old timers appeared to recognize how those new to the recovery groups failed to grasp the process associated with the fellowship with others growing and maturing. Sure, the meetings sometimes may host horrific stories of suffering and detailed descriptions of despair. There was nothing to show forth the work going on to those who are still a hunger and thirsting for a solution to their specific struggles and dilemma.
Regarding the men’s fellowship within the Christian community – there typically was no real follow up. A weekly meeting of men getting together and sharing a scripture, coffee, donuts, and prayer. Recovery groups offered follow up, constant appeal for newcomers to get together with a sponsor. Foster a relationship and start working through the steps of the recovery program.
For me, the lack of discipleship within a faith-based fellowship lacked a program to foster spiritual growth on a person’s spiritual journey in faith. I’ve heard many Christians boast that such a lifestyle is a faith based on a relationship with Jesus Christ. A fellowship of believers. Yet many fail to nourish those new to the faith and therefore many no longer attend services or ministry programs.
Yet one walks into the fellowship rooms of recovery and there they are nourished by many stories of victory and endurance of faith, power of restoration, and healing. Not just in the rooms themselves, but in connection and fellowship through individual relationship and fellowship of mentoring, discipleship, and sponsoring those still suffering and struggling.
If my life is in chaos, I want to look into myself for the cause and the cure and use a fellowship of others where I am able to safely expose my shortcomings through vulnerability and courage. I seek out a fellowship with a group of others where it is a living and functioning unit where each one of us come and sharpen ourselves in order to find the cure for our sufferings. Not only the fellowship of a weekly group of others engaged in finding solutions to their own sufferings but a connection with another to continue to learn and grow in faith, spirituality, and journey. I seek to be sharpened just as I hopefully am able to sharpen another.
Such relationships and fellowships are a process and personal journey that consistently reminds me of the struggles we all face in this life. The faith in God as some understand him. And the courage to be vulnerable with one another, to our God, and to ourselves. A vibrant fellowship is what I stand in need of today and each and every day.
Do Not Seclude Others from Fellowship
The greatest tool for making a significant spiritual impact and influencing lives is that of fellowship. Fellowship and unity bring people together. It is through fellowship we are able to encourage. Through fellowship, we are able to engage in discipleship. Through fellowship, we share the love of Christ and the grace of God in the lives of other people. Through fellowship, we grow, strengthen, and are held accountable for our character and integrity.
Scripture is quite clear. In times of need, we are called to share our faith, our hope, and comfort those in need. If we take upon ourselves the name of Christ, we also take upon ourselves to responsibility toward others.
…and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn, yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort…Book of Mormon – Mosiah 18:7-10
Sometimes, Life has become a dark journey for most of us. Through our faith in Jesus Christ, we come to full knowledge of His light, love, and truth. Do we forsake others struggling in their own faith and spiritual journey? God forbid. This is the heart and foundation of fellowship and support. A place to provide comfort. A place where individuals gather and fellowship with one another. Mourning with those that are in mourning. To bear one another’s burdens so that their burdens are made light. It is because of our own personal journey through those dark valleys are we empowered to properly comfort others as God have comforted us.
Fellowship ought to be the core part of our every day lives. Our association with other fellow believers ought to be uplifting, enlightening, encouraging, and consistent. This is a powerful tool for spreading God’s message.
Our Heavenly Father desires us to come together in unity and harmony. Ministering to one another, supporting, encouraging, lifting up, and strengthening. It requires our commitment to be of service to help strengthen the fellowship within our homes, our Church, and our community.
Reasons an Individual may have Stopped Attending Church
Reason One: You were created to worship God corporately and publicly
Yes, I agree. God has called us to be part of a community and fellowship. He created us as social beings. He also created us to experience a range of human emotions. Whenever I have attended Church services, I always feel the presence of God. Much like when I worship him in private and seclusion. However, I’ve attended Church and always felt I worshiped God alone. I felt no one offering any fellowship or encouragement for me. I have made attempts to be part of the community, to do service work and have not had any positive responses. I walk in and people move around me, not taking any time to say hi, introduce themselves, or even invite me to sit with them. I sit alone, in the back and there are usually empty seats around me.
How is it that I am able to worship publicly and corporately when I feel isolated and alone in a congregation of people who are not sociable?”
Reason Two: The need for support and accountability
This is the whole issue here. I have attended Church for support. As I have personal struggles and have made several attempts to reach out, to ask for people if they have a moment to sit with me in counsel. All I have gotten, on numerous occasions is – pray that God will provide, God bless.
How am I able to find support when I am constantly feeling no one is willing to lend an ear, to sit in counsel with me, to take the time to allow me to share? How am I willing to find support when the answer is merely to pray and God will work it out? Do you not believe I am not praying to God and that He has called me to come into Church and trust in Him that he will place people in my path that will help me?”
Reason Three: We need you and your gifts
If this were true, then how is it that I am not able to serve in the Church, or have asked to step down from serving because I am not what “God wants” in that particular ministry? I agree with the concept of spiritual gifts, however, if I am not allowed to serve, or have no fellowship with fellow believers within the community, why do I need to continue to be part of the congregation and be ignored, or passed over?
Reason Four: Your family and friends need your testimony
How am I able to share my testimony when I have not been able to cultivate any authentic relationship with fellow believers? I have no real family around and the only people I am able to call family are those that I have attempted to build relationships with.
While it is true that we ought to not isolate ourselves and live in isolation, I am isolated, and not by my own choice. I am isolated because I feel unwanted whenever I come to Church and am ignored by people, not even being acknowledged.
Reason Five: The Bible instructs us to gather together in groups to worship
Yes, and the Bible, specifically the teachings of Jesus Christ, show that we are not to be exclusive in our worship. Christ taught, sat with, and counseled those who the religious leaders and pious religious Jews considered marginalized, and unwanted. The Church, today, is full of people who are more interested in those doing well, those who are not struggling, those who seem to have a “perfect Christian” lifestyle. I know I am not perfect and I know that I in Christ. However, if I feel unwanted and unwelcomed, how is it that I am able to still come to Church and be part of a community of believers when I have shared how people have consistently ignored me every week, not willing to take time to meet me and get to know me, and provide encouragement and support?
Here is the reality:
Many people have various reasons for no longer attending Church. If you take the time to listen to them share their reasons, you will find a common theme among those stories. They have felt disappointed, let down, disconnected, judged, criticized, ignored, and felt they never belonged when people pass them by and not offer a hand of fellowship.
And, before you comment: The Church is not perfect and if you base your reason not to attend church, then you are doing it wrong –Understand this:
The Church is the people. We are to be an extension of Christ. We are his servants in the Kingdom. We are called to fellowship with one another. We are to extend the love of Christ without judgment, criticism, or biased perceptions. We are not to ignore them, to distance ourselves from them. Yet, this is the major reason your friend may have stopped coming to Church.
Instead of sending an open letter to them inviting them back, show up to their home, call them on the phone and meet up with them. Talk with them and listen to what they are sharing, pray with them, be there for them, and through that – you may have greater result in encouraging them to come back to Church.
Going forward with faith and purpose means to do so where we are the instruments of welcoming people into our congregation. Being friendly, encouraging them, check up on them, seeking them out and finding out how we may minister to their needs. It requires us to see them for who they are – accepting them as Christ has already accepted them. To love on them.
Fellowship requires us to see people as our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ sees them. It requires we minister through active listening, service, being of comfort, and allowing them space. It means we meet those individuals where they are – and not where we believe they ought to be. Many people have left the faith – not because of sin, not because of any offense. They may have left because they felt they did not belong and there were no friendly faces to behold.
Meditate and Ponder
Have you considered coming back to the faith? Afraid that you may not feel welcomed? Worried people may see you and judge you?
How about ways we are able to help facilitate an environment that is welcoming, friendly, encouraging, and empowering to assist in someone feeling the warmth of friendship, a sense of belonging, and are encouraged to partake in our fellowship.
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