Tuesday, December 18, 2007

True Fellowship

I was struck by a thought while working through some passages in Scripture this evening. I'm still struggling with the right way to word it. As best as I can manage, the thought runs thusly:

We desperately need to be in communities of active sharing and encouragement regarding the spiritual parts of our lives.

When we are in close Christian community, growth is natural. We naturally pour out to the people around us the things the Holy Spirit has been working in our hearts, and in so doing we continually stir one another up to love and good works. The things God is teaching me will likely differ from those He is teaching you, but the two will always be complementary, for there is no division in God.

Most of the time, however, this is something we must work for, strive to attain. Rare is the community that is so close, so active, and so overflowing with the work of the Spirit that growth naturally comes out of it. I have experienced it, but not frequently. I experienced it this summer. We were all united in common vision, in pursuit of a common goal, and all of us were people dedicated to the study of the word and to drawing ever closer to our God and King. Conversation focusing on what God was teaching us was the norm, and it required no special or particular effort to be challenged by the ways God was moving among us: for it was openly on the table, all the time.

I have wondered why I have struggled in the months since then to keep passionately engaged with some of the ideas that so fired my soul over the summer. I realized that there are two components: first, the fickleness of my own heart, and second, the absence of that sort of community. In the gap left by our leaving, I know many of us did not find ourselves so engaged again. We have not necessarily been out of fellowship - but we have not had the sort of fellowship we experienced there and that God calls us to have everywhere. But in that absence, we can easily let slip our vision, our hold on our passions growing more tenuous as we are not heard by people passionately interested in the things God has been teaching.

The question, of course, is how we can attain that sort of fellowship. Most Christian interactions seem to be divided into two categories: that of the intensely spiritually focused (e.g., church services, discipleship, bible studies, etc.) and what we frequently call "fellowship" but can really range from not even slightly spiritual in focus to as deep and meaningful and spiritual as those intentional activities. I realized that my times of fellowship this last semester have simply been shallower than I would have liked: they have focused more on events and people than on the person of God.

It is not that people or events are bad; they are necessary and indeed good! However, our understanding of events must always be informed by their relation to the person of God and His work in our life. Moreover, this is to be at a level deeper than simply saying, "Here are these events in my life; I know God is working in me through them and drawing me to Him." Rather, we should be continually seeking to integrate the experiences of our life with the picture we gain from Scripture of the character, nature, and personhood of God - the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.

This summer, I was passionately devoted to the notion of the God of glory - this God who defies comprehension, yet invites us to know Him deeply and intimately. Since then, I have struggled to maintain that fire. Today it became clear that part of the struggle, in addition to the normal travails of maintaining any vision, has been lacking people who were as excited by the notion as I am around me. Times and places that could have been opportunities to share that truth were missed, and most of the spiritually focused conversations I had in time of fellowship were about our cirucmstances, not about the character of God.

I do not begrudge those times, but I am committing to change that pattern in the months ahead. I believe we need times, dedicated times, where we simply come together as a group and turn our hearts toward God - fellowshipping not only with one another but also with Him: times of worshipful reflection together. Not forced or artificial, but born out of our deep love for Christ and for each other. Not an "accountability group," because the focus ought to be less on our failings and sins and more on the greatness and glory of Christ.

We are social creatures: we mourn together, rejoice together, live together. We must grow together, and we must join one another in excitement - as we each pursuit Christ passionately. When we try to walk alone, our excitement fades. When we walk together, we stir it up in one another, encourage each other, impassion those around us.

I'm going to be looking for opportunity to do this, and regularly, with close friends, both guys and girls - because we need it. (Ultimately, I'd love to be doing it with people of all ages, too... but we'll get there when we can.)

Grace and peace with you all.

- Chris


  1. Yes.

    Yet, part of the reality of life is that fires do not burn forever, and if they do burn forever, we adapt to them till them become routine and mundane.

    I don't think we're supposed to live in those places continuously. God met Moses in the form of fire in a bush, but He did not keep Moses there. Moses was sent out to live life, and living life is hard.

    The reality that life is hard is not a bad thing ... it's simply an "is" thing. Even when you're married with children and you and your wife are serving God together, the fire will burn out, and you will find yourself alone in these places for extended periods of time ... wondering ... where is the fire that once burned so fervently.

    I think that it is how we live, endure, and survive between the times the fire burns fervently ... when life seems shallow ... when the relationships circling around us in this season are shallow and not deep ... this is the time when what we experienced in the fire takes the time to cure and define what it really became within us.

    These times feel "ungrounded," as if they're floating without direction or purpose. Yet, I'm finding in my life, that they are more full of purpose than I could have ever imagined.

    As you create more opportunity to come together in community to praise Holy God and encourage one another in the faith, hold onto these seasons that seem vacant of depth. Their truth will reveal itself in due time.

  2. Chris,
    I need not tell you how great of writer you are. I have found your work much easier to navigate on this site and was just reading through some of them. God has truly given you a gift. Thank you for using the gift He has given you as it was intended- for His glory.


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