Today is New Members Service – a very warm welcome to each of you to the Living Praise Family!
Family is not about the people in your life who are blood relations.
It is about the people in your life who want you to be in theirs.
It is about the people in your life who accept you for who you are, support you in the things you choose to do and no matter what, are there for you.
It is the people in your life who love you, respect you and who you can depend on.
Now that is Family!
Family is more than blood.
They are the people who support you in bad times and celebrate with you in good times.
They are always there when you need them and love with all their hearts.
Yes! Life is meant to be shared!
God intends for us to experience life together and the bible called this shared experience fellowship. Real fellowship is so much more than just showing up at services – it is experiencing life together. It includes unselfish loving, honest sharing, practical serving, sacrificial giving, sympathetic comforting, and all the other ‘one another’ commands found in the New Testament.
The Body of Christ (the church), like your own body, is really a collection of many small cells. The life of the Body of Christ, like your body, is contained in the cells. For this very reason, every Christian needs to be involved in a small group within the church – Home Fellowship Group, a Sunday School Class, Bible Study Group (Cell Group), Men’s Fellowship, Ladies Prayer Fellowship, Youth and Young Adults Fellowships, etc where real fellowship / community takes place!
So in real fellowship people experience:
In real fellowship people experience authenticity
Authentic fellowship is not superficial, surface-level chit-chat. It is genuine, heart-to-heart, sometimes gut-level sharing. This only happens when people get honest about who they are and what is happening in their lives. They share their hurts, reveal their feelings, confess their failures, disclose their doubts, admit their fears, acknowledge their weaknesses, and ask for help and prayer; and there must be an atmosphere of honesty and humility.
It is only as we become open about our lives that we experience real fellowship as the bible says in 1 Jn 1:6-8: If we claim to have fellowship with Him (God) yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light (being transparent to one another), as He (God) is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all (every) sin. If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.
The world thinks intimacy occurs in the dark, but God says it happens in the light. Darkness is used to hide our hurts, faults, fears, failures, and flaws. But in the light, we bring them all out into the open and admit who we really are. Being authentic requires both courage and humility. It means facing our fear of exposure, rejection, and being hurt again. Why would anyone take such a risk? Because it is the only way to grow spiritually and be emotionally healthy. The bible says in James 5:16 – Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed (including your emotions). The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.
We only grow by taking risks, and the most difficult risk of all is to be honest with God, with ourselves and with others.
In real fellowship people experience mutuality
Mutuality is the art of giving and receiving. It is depending on each other. In 1 Cor 12:25 (The Message): The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t.
Mutuality is the heart of fellowship: building reciprocal relationships, sharing responsibilities, and helping each other. All of us are more consistent in our faith when others walk with us and encourage us. The bible commands mutual accountability, mutual encouragement, mutual serving, and mutual honouring – Rom 1:12; Rom 12:10; Rom 14:19.
You are not responsible for everyone in the Body of Christ but you are responsible to them – so do whatever you can to help them.
In real fellowship people experience sympathy
Sympathy is not giving advice or offering quick, cosmetic help; sympathy is entering in and sharing the pain of others. The biblical word is sympathy (others may call or prefer to call empathy) – Col 3:12 (God’s Word Translation) – As holy people whom God has chosen and loved, be sympathetic, kind, humble, gentle, and patient.
Sympathy meets two fundamental human needs; the need to be understood and the need to have your feelings validated. Every time you understand and affirm someone’s feelings, you build fellowship. The problem is that we are often in so much of a hurry to fix things that we don’t have time to sympathise with people or that we are pre-occupied with our own hurts. Self-pity dries up sympathy for others.
There are different levels of fellowship, and each is appropriate at different times. The simplest levels of fellowship are the fellowship of sharing and the fellowship of studying God’s word together. A deeper level of fellowship is the fellowship of serving together in mission trips or mercy projects. The deepest, most intense level is the fellowship of suffering (Phil 3:10; Heb 10:33-34), where we enter into each other’s pain and grief and carry each other’s burdens.
We need each other most in times of deep crisis, grief, and doubts. When circumstances crush us to the point that our faith falters, that’s when we need believing friends the most. We need a small group of friends to have faith in God for us and to pull us through. In a small group, the Body of Christ is real and tangible even when God seems distant.
In real fellowship people experience mercy
Fellowship is a place of grace, where mistakes are not rubbed in but rubbed out. Fellowship happens when mercy wins over justice.
We all need mercy, because we all stumble and fall and require help getting back on track. We all need to offer mercy to each other and be willing to receive it from each other (2 Cor 2:7).
You cannot have real fellowship without forgiveness because bitterness and resentment always destroy fellowship. Because we are imperfect, sinful people. We inevitably hurt each other when we are together for a long enough time. Sometimes we hurt each other intentionally, sometimes unintentionally, but either way, it takes massive amounts of mercy and grace to create and maintain real fellowship (Col 3:13).
God’s mercy to us is the motivation for showing mercy to others. Let us remember that we will never be asked to forgive someone else more than God has already forgiven us. Many people are reluctant to show mercy because they do not understand the difference between trust and forgiveness. Forgiveness is letting go of the past. Trust has to do with future behavior. Forgiveness must be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time to allow change in that person – a God-forgiven and changed person! The best place to restore trust is within the supportive context of a small group that offers both encouragement and accountability.
There are many other benefits you will experience in being a part of the small group committed to real fellowship. It is therefore an essential part of your Christian life and growth that you cannot overlook!
For Personal Reflection:
The Fellowship of the Believers – Acts 2:42
They devoted themselves to:
the apostles’ teaching
the breaking of bread
(The Message version) – They committed themselves to the teaching of the apostles, the life together, the common meal, and the prayers.
For Personal Application:
What one step can I take today to connect with another believer at a more genuine, heart-to-heart level?
Every human being was created by God but not everyone is a child of God!
You became part of the human family by your first birth – but you become a member of God’s family by your second birth – by committing your entire life to God and placing your faith in Him for the rest of your life. (1 Pet 1:3; Rom 8:15-16)
If you would like to know how to be a member of God’s family, may I suggest that you complete the Response Slip on Page 2 of today’s Church Bulletin and hand it to the Pastor or the Church Pastoral Team/Staff for a chat.
Yes, your spiritual family is even more important than your physical family because it will last forever. Our families on earth are wonderful gifts from God, but they are temporary and fragile, often broken by divorce, distance, growing old, and inevitably, death.
On the other hand, our spiritual family – our relationship to other believers – will continue throughout eternity. It is a much stronger union, a more permanent bond, than blood relationships.
Being included in God’s family is therefore the highest honour and the greatest privilege you will ever receive. Nothing else comes close. Whenever you feel unimportant, unloved, or insecure, remember to whom you belong.
It is my prayer that you be a part of God’s Family (if you are currently not), and not apart from God’s Family.