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Day 17 – Fellow Travelers and Authentic Fellowship

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Never lie to one another; because you have stripped away the old self, with its ways, and have put on the new self, which is continually being renewed in fuller and fuller knowledge, closer and closer to the image of its Creator. The new self allows no room for discriminating between Gentile and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, foreigner, savage, slave, free man; on the contrary, in all, the Messiah is everything. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with feelings of compassion and with kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with one another; if anyone has a complaint against someone else, forgive him. Indeed, just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must forgive. Above all these, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together perfectly; and let the shalom which comes from the Messiah be your heart’s decision-maker, for this is why you were called to be part of a single Body. And be thankful — let the Word of the Messiah, in all its richness, live in you, as you teach and counsel each other in all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude to God in your hearts. That is, everything you do or say, do in the name of the Lord Yeshua, giving thanks through him to God the Father.
~ Colossians 3:9-17, CJB ~

We are fellow travelers and pilgrims in life. And our Heavenly Father desires that we become united. It is this genuine and authentic fellowship that is the desire and motivation for us to reach out and minister to those who are lost. Minister to those who are broken. Minister to those who are experiencing hardships and struggling in life. It is also the desire to share in one another’s victories, overcoming difficulties in life, and sharing in our testimony of the goodness of the Savior and the gospel of Christ.

Yet we tend to think of fellowship under the guise of social functions where there is food, refreshments, and fun. Fellowship appears to center around casual conversations. It appears that the true meaning of fellowship has become lost. Because it is much more than gathering around social events, study groups, service projects, and after Church service refreshments.

True authentic fellowship is about experiencing life together and growing in faith with one another. It includes charity, sacrificing, being of service, empathizing, sitting in counsel to comfort and mourn. True authentic fellowship promotes a healthy sense of belonging.

One may worship and next to them is a doctor or a janitor. A housewife herding children. No matter who is present – we all come together to worship and serve our Heavenly Father. And with that, we each bring our own understanding, our own perspectives, and our own unique talents and skills. And we are sitting next to others who are struggling with their own fears, doubts, insecurities, and possibly crisis of faith.

Therefore, our coming together in genuine fellowship ought never be based on social status where our worth appears to be measured by material things, accomplishments, and achievements. Because when we come together and fellowship – each one gathers together on equal grounds: our need for one another and our need for our Heavenly Father and the infinite atonement of Jesus Christ.

Each one of us are spiritual beings having a human experience (Pierre Teihard de Chardin) where we need to reach out to each other for love, understanding, and belonging.

The Israelites came out of Egypt together. They experienced hardships under their task masters. Loss of family, friends. And they went out into the wilderness together. And they experienced the presence and miracles of God. Today, many of us are experiencing our own hardships, our own doubts and insecurities, possessed with fear. Some of us are probably coming out of our own Egypt.

The call for us to go forward with faith and purpose is also a call for us to gather in small groups. This is the reason for Sunday school classes, weeknight youth activities, scripture study groups like those for single adults studying the Old Testament. Men gathering together in fellowship. Women gathering together in fellowship. Doing so, we experience the presence of Christ because when we are gathered in His name – he is there in the midst with us (Matthew 18:20).

Authentic Fellowship is about Vulnerability and Authenticity

Recovery support groups are successful because they allow individuals to be vulnerable, real, and have a genuine connection with one another. This is what appears to be missing in many of our congregations today. The ability to have real authentic fellowship where people connect on a heart-to-heart level. A place where individuals are free to express their concerns, share their struggles, and to explore with one another the challenges we all face in this life.

When we allow ourselves to shed the masks and disguises, we tend to wear – we are able to share who we truly are. Ability to confess to one another our failings, our hurts, and explore those doubts we may have. It is also an opportunity to ask questions that we have long wanted to ask. Challenge certain things in order to gain a greater understanding. A place to study the scriptures, learn how to apply them in our lives, and become stronger in our faith.

Shallow and cheap fellowship is nothing more than a gossip session, a place of scorn, judgment, and criticism. A place where the spirit of contention is sown. It is also a place of spiritual apathy. There is no fostering of growth. No commitment to rejoice with one another. No willingness to mourn with those who are in mourning. No, shallow and cheap fellowship is all about pretending, role-playing, and superficial kindness and charity. Made up of shallow conversations.

Authentic Fellowship is about Belonging and Mutual Awareness

There is a sense of real concern when people truly feel they belong. Every one of us long for some emotional and spiritual connection with others. If you were to truly listen to those who have left the faith – there is one common thread within their viewpoint: I felt like I did not belong because I did not feel welcomed. And who are we to judge and criticize them for what they truly experienced and felt? Are we no better than they?

All of us are able to benefit from healthy relationships that are forged in faith. Each of us working in harmony, with purpose, and with unity to bring about our Heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. Together, we hold one another accountable. We encourage one another. We serve one another. Do not esteem self above others. And we edify and enrich one another.

Authentic Fellowship is about Empathy and Compassion

When we come together and carry one another burdens – we are to share in their grief. Share in their sorrow. And share in their despair. There are no quick fix suggestions, recommendations, or cliche advice giving. Genuine empathy and compassion mean we come to a place of understanding. Meet those individuals where they are. And recognize the need for comfort. Sometimes it doesn’t even take words to sit with someone. This does two fundamental things: 1) provides understanding and 2) validates those emotions one is experiencing. This takes time. It takes discipline.

We are far too quick and hurried in our lives. Maybe we are not prepared or do not know how to respond to someone in distress or pain. Perchance we are dealing with our own hurts and personal issues that we shut down and close ourselves off from others.

How we Engage in Fellowship Matters

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is about calling men and women to repentance. It is also about discipleship. It is also about edifying, serving, ministering in some capacity, and showing those behaviors that are inviting. Behaviors that say you belong. No matter where a person may be at in their life.

All of us are invited to engage in some form of missionary work and ministry. Not only to those outside of our faith, but also toward those who are within our faith. In fact, for the members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, there is the four-fold mission of the Church.

  • Perfect the Saints
  • Proclaim the Everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ restored unto us in these last days
  • Family History and Redemption for the Dead
  • Care for those in need

These are the main areas of fellowship. And they are not independent of one another. These are interdependent and are only able to be fulfilled through authentic and genuine means of fellowship.

Fellowship and what it means to Perfect the Saints

Much of this is accomplished through community worship, gospel centered Sunday school classes, Priesthood and relief society meetings. Ministering assignments to maintain connection and contact with those families and individuals within the ward. It also includes Seminary classes for high school age students, youth, young adult, and single adult activities that are centered on service, ministering, or other means of helping around Church grounds.

Fellowship in Missionary Work and Ministry

Young adults serve full-time missions. Retired couples also enter into the mission field and serve as well. Some hold callings within the Church as ward missionaries. However, every member is a missionary as well. We are to be able to share the message of what inspires us to live, invite those who are not of our faith to come and join with us. Meet with our missionaries, discuss with them some questions and concerns they may have regarding our faith. It is also up to us to reach out and minister and engage in missionary work toward those who have gone inactive, to seek out those who may have stopped coming. Ministering to them with an invitation to come back where they feel they belong.

Fellowship in Family History and Sacred Ordinances for those who have passed on

Another level of fellowship includes working together as a family, neighbors and friends when it comes to family history, genealogy, and engaging in preforming vicarious sacred ordinances for those who have passed on. This enriching and deepening temple worship experience helps us come together and grow in our faith. Helps us to remind one another the importance of Christ’s infinite atonement.

Fellowship through compassionate service and ministry to those in need

Central to the Gospel of Jesus Christ is being able to minister to the needs of those who are suffering. Individuals who are experiencing some set back. When the Apostles were asked about meeting the needs of the people, they called forth those men of integrity to administer in such temporal needs (Acts 6:1-8). This fellowship goes back to the heart of charity. The pure love of Christ.

Authentic and Genuine Fellowship means we are Obeying the Law of Christ

The Law of Christ simply reflects the two great commandments that hang on the Law and the Prophets (Old Testament and the Law of Moses). It is mentioned in Galatians 6:2 and 1 Corinthians 9:21. While Paul writes to the Galatian Church – bear one another’s burden’s. He also writes to the Christians at Corinth that he preaches willingly and with humility. That he became a servant to some, weak to others, and all things to all those whom he preached (see, 1 Corinthians 9:16-27).

By showing charity, being humble and full of compassion, showing grace through patience, and being kind to serve and bear up another person’s burdens – one is walking faithfully in the law of Christ.

Key Point

All of us are traveling through this life with our own burdens. With our own cares, worries, doubts, insecurities, and fears. Genuine fellowship invites a spirit of belonging. It invites us in to be part of a family. Growing together. Ministering to one another in love, patience, and kindness. Showing empathy and compassion. Rejoicing in victories and solemn worship in the face of loss and grief. Genuine fellowship is not about getting together over food and refreshments or socializing. It is developing a deep heart-to-heart connection with one another so that we walk faithfully in obeying the law of Christ.

Meditate and Ponder

How do you go forward in faith and purpose by focusing on developing a healthier and deeper fellowship with others? Have you kept yourself from participating in Sunday worship? Stayed from gospel centered discussions? Lacked the desire to engage in meaningful service toward others? Part of our growing in faith means we connect and grow with others. Develop those relationships so that when we are in need – we are able to call upon those around us to pray, counsel, and share in our own burdens. To rejoice with us when we have walked through our own storms. What does genuine and authentic fellowship mean for you and what impact does it have on your faith going forward?