13. Fellowship

          The “God and me” part of being a believer is pretty cool.  He’s our super-friend and wise leader, always there, always loving us and helping us.  Isn’t that enough?  Why bring other believers into the picture?  Fellow Christians complicate things, especially when you’re part of a local church.  Now, instead of just a quiet “God-and-me”,  the picture morphs into the noisier “God-and-we”.   Suddenly you’re dealing with the complications of a group – folks with personalities, agendas and convictions that are often different than ours, not to mention all the issues raised by buildings, organizational practices and money. Why do this?  Why not keep it simple?  It’s tempting to stick with the just “God and me” approach, but I believe that “God and we” is a sounder way to live.

Why is it wise for me to spend quality time with other believers?

1.    It’s wise for me to spend quality time with other believers because that’s God’s plan

While the Bible focuses, at times, on the individual’s relationship with God, the New Testament, in particular, makes it clear that Christianity is also a team sport.  We’re not meant to do this alone.  Metaphors like “Christ’s body” (1 Cor. 12:27), or the church as Christ’s “bride” (Rev. 19:7) describe us as part of a larger group.   Furthermore, in the New Testament, almost everyone is connected to an active local church.  Finally, the phrase “one another”, as in “love one another”, is used repeatedly, showing that interaction between believers was expected and even commanded (Heb. 10:24, Rom. 13:8).  

2.   It’s wise for me to spend quality time with other believers because I need their support


A lone believer is a limited believer.  It’s not easy to live for Christ in this world, but it’s much harder if we do it alone.  Isolated, we’re more vulnerable to the twisted tendencies of our own sinful heart, to the lies swirling around us, and to the merciless attacks of the enemy.  Surrounded by other godly believers we receive encouragement (Heb. 10:25),  prayer support (Eph. 6:18),  love (John 13:34),  instruction (1 Cor. 14:26) and so on.  


3.   It’s wise for me to spend quality time with other believers because they need me


The Christian life isn’t just about me.  Other believers matter too.  And they need my help to survive and to thrive.  The Bible says that God has given each believer a specific gift meant to be shared with other believers (1 Cor. 12:7).  When we isolate from other believers our gift stays dormant and barely used – wasted.  But when we exercise our gift, our brothers and sisters are strengthened in Christ.  And, in blessing others, we too are blessed.  It feels good to be used by God.  


4.   It’s wise for me to spend quality time with other believers because it’s a testimony to the world


In John 13:34, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.”  One of the strongest testimonies to unbelievers of the invisible God occurs when they see visible believers loving one another.   It’s like a bright beacon on a dark night or a warm fire on a cold day. It attracts.  If, on the other hand, believers live selfish lives, detached from one other, this sends the opposite message, casting doubt on God’s existence and His love.    Now let’s ask a second question:

What does it mean to spend quality time with other believers?

1.      Quality time with other believers begins with a   commitment to value them as much as I value myself

Paul tells us, in Philippians 2,  tells us:  “each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” For most of us, this isn’t easy.  By nature we’re fascinated with ourselves and at least mildly bored with the lives of others.  In other words, our normal instinct is to be self-centered.  Ask God to change this.  He can do it.  


2.     Quality time with other believers comes when I put them in my schedule


In order to spend quality time with other believers I must first make time.  This means combating the “I’d like to, but I’m always so busy” mindset and actually finding time, on a regular basis, for other believers. We’ll have to work at this, sometimes even setting aside a few other worthwhile activities.  By the way, there is no quality without quantity.  The deeper interactions with other believers are a bit random, especially at first.  We may need an hour together to get ten especially meaningful minutes.  So decide to do whatever it takes to get regular time with your spiritual brothers and sisters.  


3.   Quality time with other believers develops as I attempt to interact in a deeper, more genuine way


Christian fellowship is often a safe, superficial exercise – people in nice clothes saying nice things, then heading off in their nice cars untouched by one another.  It doesn’t have to be that way.  The New Testament, with all its “one anothers”,  encourages us to build real friendships; friendships based on transparency, honesty, accountability, and commitment.  These take time and involve some risk, but they’re one of the great gifts of being a believer.  Find at least a few fellow Christians you can be real with.   


4.    Quality time with other believers grows when I come ready to serve

Who do you trust more – a person who is pleasant but self-focused, or a person who is genuinely interested in you and who is willing to help you in practical ways?  When we come ready to serve other believers, the doors to quality friendship open a lot quicker.  As we cheerfully listen and show love, others are quicker to bond with us, quicker to trust us, and quicker to reach back.  Loyalty and love develop.  On the other hand, in a church full of self-focused, consumer Christians, friendships stay fairly superficial and the atmosphere is more like a religious cocktail party – amusing, but not especially life-changing.   

Here’s a quote from theologian N.T. Wright: "If God is our father, the church is our mother." The words are those of the Swiss Reformer John Calvin ... it is as impossible, unnecessary, and undesirable to be a Christian all by yourself as it is to be a newborn baby all by yourself.”  (end quote)

Quality time with other believers is a huge part         of growing into a strong, godly spiritual adult.  Without healthy friendships with other believers people usually stay mired in perpetual spiritual adolescence.                                     Nevertheless, I can hear someone saying:  “Alright, I get the point about having a quality relationship with a few other believers, but I’m still not sure about the “church” part.  Church seems like a hassle to me.  Can’t I just hang with a few other believers and skip the “Sunday morning in a sanctuary” thing?  That’s a fair question – one that can’t be answered adequately this late in the broadcast.  So tune in next time.