Monday, July 22, 2013

What is Fellowship? Part III

"Pastor, I think my family and myself are going to leave "Fill-in-the-blank Community Church" because we just can't find any fellowship here."

What pastor (s) have not heard that statement before. It comes right after, "Pastor, we need to talk." We all know what that statement means don't we? No matter how many times it is heard, it is still as heart-breaking as the first time.

Most pastors get upset and defensive when they hear this from a family that is either a member or who have been attending for some time. Unfortunately excuses begin to be thrown about and blame is usually fixed on the "family" that is leaving. 

Pastors begin to point out all the wonderful fellowship that is available at ABC Bible Church. They point out the corporate worship service, the summer VBS, the men and/or women's bible studies, the BYKOTAs', the Quilting group, the ladies fellowship, the men's fellowship, and the every other Thursday evening on a full moon except for holidays sock darning society. 

The offender is usually accused of not taking advantage of all these wonderful activities of fellowship. They may be encouraged to try another group or "fellowship" opportunity.

I will admit and give you the fact that some if not many "believers" do not make genuine attempts at developing biblical fellowship. There are those times where the blame is squarely on the "offended" family.

However, in many cases, sadly, it is the pastor who is to be blamed. First, for not recognizing that real or true fellowship may in fact not be taking place at his church. Second, for not taking the leadership initiative through teaching in order to foster a practicing spiritual dynamic of Christian fellowship. 

Remember fellowship is not simply or merely activity with a "Christian" moniker attached to it. Attending monthly or quarterly pot-lucks do not always foster fellowship. No doubt they can produce great meals and some fun times. But while the middle is getting "fed and fat" the soul can be withering away. Many souls are starving and thin because fellowship does not happen.

I know. I have been in "churches" where the preaching was good, the people were friendly and even sincere, but I was starving for fellowship. 

David, while on the run from King Saul took refuge in a cave. While sitting in this cave on the run, in fear for his life, and alone made this pointed statement:

"Look on my right hand and see, for there is no one who acknowledges me; refuge has failed me, no one cares for my soul." (Psalms 142:4, NKJV)

Isn't that a pitiful commentary on both David's situation and his feelings? My friend I have felt like that one more than one occasion. I have cried that very statement in prayers to God. 

I did not have this distressful and emotional out-break while in some cave in the desert. I have had it while "worshipping" along side of a church-full of believers. I felt it while teaching an Adult Sunday School class. I felt it at pot-lucks. I have experienced it in the privacy of my own home.

Regardless of what I was doing or not doing there have been times when I believed no one (God excluded) cared for my soul. Why would I say this?

When I get together with God's people I find it difficult to get a "spiritual" conversation started. If I can get one started I find it impossible to keep it going beyond a one sentence acknowledgment.

I am not asked how I am doing spiritually. I am rarely built up in my faith or feel that my inner man has been strengthened. I am rarely encouraged or exhorted. You see true, biblical, Christian, spiritual fellowship has not taken place.

Oh, we have talked and visited. I have learned who is taking a trip, who is sick, who has scheduled surgery, how hot the weather has been, how rude drivers are, and on and on and on. You know what I mean.

Lest you set out to rebuke me (and periodically I need that) I make every attempt for quite some time before I recognize that I am feeling as David did. I take the initiative. I don't wait on someone else to do so in every case. Of course I do feed myself with personal fellowship with my heavenly Father almost every morning.

But I would love to know that some cares for my soul, that someone acknowledges me. And so does that family who just told you, "Pastor, I don't get any fellowship here at our church." 

You can say to me or our "fictional family" all day long, that "we" have a whole church that loves us and cares for us. There is more than being friendly, liked, even loved, and/or tolerated superficially in an auditorium or bible study setting. It is entirely something different to have someone whom I have a common denominator with participating in my spiritual development through fellowship which enriches my soul.

Pastor, don't be dismissive. Don't be defensive. Most importantly don't be dumb. Ask them what they mean. Ask them what they are missing or what it is that they think they are not getting. Evaluate your church body - is real biblical and spiritual fellowship even taking place. Or is it truly missing.

Shaking hands as you walk in the door or down an aisle on the way to a chair or pew, a smile from across the room, singing together the same hymn, and listening to a sermon together does not mean that fellowship has taken place. More often than not it has not taken place.

Maybe this family is in need of mentoring or discipling. Maybe this family is need of exhortation and edification. Maybe this family needs to be taught biblically an accurately. Maybe this family is right.

Don't tell them to attend the pot-lucks or ask them why they don't attend the men's or women's bible studies. Have you spent the time and made the necessary herculean effort to teach and develop real fellowship in your church?

Let's talk some more about this subject. Will you join me on Wednesday? 

Please enjoy Tuesday's Treasure Tuesday.

If you are able, stop by on Wednesday. I hope to share with you at least seven reasons why fellowship does not take place at the average evangelical church.


Josh said...

"Remember fellowship is not simply or merely activity with a 'Christian' moniker attached to it." Sad but true. I'll look forward to your thoughts on Wednesday!

Anonymous said...

Good points of views, look forward to Wednesday,


Pat Donovan said...

WOW, I am looking forward to Wednesday with eagerness, now that I have read the first 3 blogs in this series. Because I to often long for true fellowship and wonder if my expectations are to high.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Pat - Thanks. Hope you stop by! Thurs and Friday should be good also.

Gregg Metcalf said...

Josh - Thanks!

Yvonne - Thanks!