Do Not Forsake the Fellowship

Do not forsake the fellowship...

How many times have I, myself, used this verse to admonish a Believer who was not showing up to enough scheduled services each month?  How many times have I wielded this verse against people who believed that they could obey all the church Scriptures just by getting together regularly with fellow Believers and loving each other through life?  For my entire life, I have understood and used this verse to mean, "Don't you dare miss church services!"  It was preached that way.  I was taught that way. And I felt strongly that my understanding of that particular Scripture could help people see the value in what we were doing at church. 

Then, one Sunday during a church service, I stood and worshiped with a sweet sister in Christ.  We belted out verses together and raised our hands together.  Over the music, we tried to communicate about an upcoming small group series that my husband and I were leading, but because of the noise, waited for our thirty second greeting time to chat.  That is when I put my foot in my mouth.  That is when I asked my friend, who had been faithful to lead small groups for me for couples wanting to strengthen their marriages, to pray about leading another marriage group the upcoming semester.  And that is when I realized how very, tragically, religiously, and hypocritically I had been FORSAKING THE FELLOWSHIP of the saints. 

My friend had just recently finalized her divorce-
of a husband I just realized I hadn't seen lately.


For months, I assume, her home was in chaos. 
And I did not know. 
She, no doubt, cried herself to sleep on many occasions.
And I did not know. 
She very probably googled questions about marriage, anger, forgiveness, divorce, co-parenting and grief.
And I did not know. 
Her marriage was probably salvageable. 
But I did not know until it was over. 

She is my sister in Christ.  She was a member of my "fellowship."  And her MARRIAGE ended on my watch.  And I didn't even know. 

While I was trying to make sense of that tragedy, the Holy Spirit started opening my spiritual eyes to other ways I was forsaking the fellowship of the saints while never technically missing a scheduled church service.  My husband and I taught kids each week.  Some weeks, I would be in charge of fifty kids, of which, I could name only a dozen without looking at their printed name tags.  We had to implement rigid security measures to make sure we didn't let a kid go home with someone other than who dropped them off because we were teaching children, but had no idea who their parents were.  I came to realize that part of my Sunday morning routine involved forcing myself to walk through the crowd in the church foyer because I was terrified someone would speak to me and realize I wasn't sure of their name.  I would run into people in public and invite them to worship with us and they would say, "Oh, so and so goes to church there," and I would have no idea who so and so was. 


And, since I was attending a church faithfully, it was pretty easy to do. 

I've spend more than a year studying the early church, or the fellowship of the saints, and those Scriptures have led me to a very different understanding of the words church, fellowship, ekklesia, community, Believers, together, common, Body and Kingdom.   I no longer see a building of hundreds in which I kind of know dozens and really know few when I think of these words.  The Scriptures are teaching me to see families that literally have all things in common, simply because their common love of Jesus is enough to bind them together. 

I've spent twenty years believing fellowship meant showing up to a crowd to hear a message and sing songs.  But now, I have tasted and seen fellowship that looks so much more like the precious families that chose each other in the New Testament, saying a quiet no to the world while holding fast to their faiths in a constant conversation about Jesus, His Kingdom and our Eternity.  Finally, I have learned to be DEVOTED TO FELLOWSHIP. 

No longer do I consider myself obeying the command to meet together with others if those people are strangers to me, or only want to spend an hour a week with my family.  Today, I have daily fellowship with a small group of Believers who KNOW me.  They know what I understand of the Scriptures and are a constant source of challenge and encouragement.  They know when I'm frustrated with my husband and care enough to speak life into my marriage. They know when I'm being careless with my resources and are willing to tell the truth about uncomfortable things.  They know where I am, literally, because we share our location services with each other.  They know my laughter (bless em, Lord!) and my tears.  And they are faithful.  (May I be to them what they are to me!)  We each know our darkest days, our worst mistakes, our broken pasts, our confessed shortcomings and our precious hope of eternity.  Literally, they are living the Gospel of the Kingdom out with me in our homes, on our trips, on our trails, through our bucket lists, through our studies, prayers, questions and hopes. 

I have forsaken the fellowship.  But, by the grace of God, I don't anymore. 

"Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,  and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works,  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near."

Do not forsake the fellowship of the saints.  Find people to tie your life to, through good and bad.  Share all things in common.  Raise your children with their oversight.  Invest your money with their opinions in mind.  Plan your calendar with their needs on your heart.  Speak to them day after day about the new and living way that Jesus brought to us, their full assurance of faith, your steadfast hope of an eternity in the Kingdom of God, stirring up each other in love and good works, reminding each other that Jesus could come back today! Build the fellowship. Invest in it.  Commit to it.  Count the costs and then do it anyway.  LOVE.  See Jesus in His people and let them see Jesus in you.  And as you collectively become less, see and know Jesus more and more! 
Don't show up to services.  BE DEVOTED TO FELLOWSHIP.  

Grace and peace to you as you know and love your Savior! 


Popular posts from this blog

The Gospel for the Religious

What Do You See?

"It's Going to be Okay."