Trail Guide–Directions for the Journey of a Lifetime XVI
The Seventh Step on the Trail – Hiking with Your Friends
Understanding The Importance of Fellowship
One of the lessons that I remember from childhood hikes with the Boy Scouts or at church camp is that we should always have a buddy. We had hiking buddies, swimming buddies, and even a buddy who would walk with us to the latrine. We didn’t do anything alone because there was the potential that we might become injured and have no one to assist us. The wisest man and one time king of Israel put it this way:
Two people can accomplish more than twice as much as one; they get a better return for their labor. If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But people who are alone when they fall are in real trouble. And on a cold night, two under the same blanket can gain warmth from each other. But how can one be warm alone? A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.
We Don’t Want to Hike Alone
Making the hike of your life all the more interesting and fun is the fact that we don’t have to make the hike alone. We have friends and family who can make the journey along with us. It also helps to make the entire experience more profitable to us spiritually as we grow together in the family of God.
As the early followers of Jesus were just getting started one of the most important parts of their lives was the connection they had with other believers. Read what their early history reveals in the last part of Acts 2 and in Acts 4.
Acts 2:42-47 (NLT)
42 They joined with the other believers and devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, sharing in the Lord’s Supper and in prayer. 43 A deep sense of awe came over them all, and the apostles performed many miraculous signs and wonders.
44 And all the believers met together constantly and shared everything they had.
45 They sold their possessions and shared the proceeds with those in need. 46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day, met in homes for the Lord’s Supper, and shared their meals with great joy and generosity—47 all the while praising God and enjoying the goodwill of all the people. And each day the Lord added to their group those who were being saved.
32 All the believers were of one heart and mind, and they felt that what they owned was not their own; they shared everything they had. 33 And the apostles gave powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and God’s great favor was upon them all.
34 There was no poverty among them, because people who owned land or houses sold them 35 and brought the money to the apostles to give to others in need.
I once heard the early church experience described as a KOINONIA Stew. Each believer represented one ingredient in the recipe. Alone, the stew would lack substance and flavor, but combined each ingredient added to the savory simmering collaboration, and nothing could compare to it.
KOINONIA is the Greek word that is translated as fellowship. It literally means “partnership.” It is a good description of who we are as we become connected and engaged in the church family. As we looked before at becoming employed in the kingdom of God according to our gifts which He strategically placed within us, we are not meant to simply be “members” of a church on the role, but active participants in the ministry of God’s family. We are “Partners with a Purpose.”
It is in the connection with the church family that we learn and grow as believers. We are given opportunity to demonstrate Christ in our lives in following the commands Scripture. I consider these to be the “One Anothers” of the New Testament.
- · Love One Another (John 13.34-35)
- · Forgive One Another (Ephesians 4.32)
- · Be Kind to One Another (Ephesians 4.32)
- · Encourage One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.11)
- · Build Up One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.11)
- · Live in Peace with One Another (1 Thessalonians 5.13)
- · Be Hospitable to One Another (1 Peter 4.9)
- · Submit to One Another (Ephesians 5.21)
This is a formidable list, but it is the list of behaviors, attitudes and actions that should define who we are as believers. I fully expect that when the world sees a church family who are fully committed to living out these principles it will have a dramatic influence and impact on the community and on the world. For that early church it meant that literally thousands of people came to be part of the church.
- · Imagine what could happen in your family.
- · Imagine what could happen in your community.
- · Imagine what could happen in your world.
It begins, however, with the simplest of commitments. You have to determine that you will not be the “lone-ranger” Christian, and instead become a part of the body of Christ. You have a gift—discussed in an earlier chapter. You have a specific place, a church that God has chosen for you to be a part of. You have a specific task, a ministry that God has called you to perform. All of this happens as you get on the trail with other Christ followers. It begins with that commitment.
Note: This section is one that I wish people would have told me when I first became part of a church, and especially when I entered the ministry as a pastor. Please read it carefully and pray for understanding as you read through.
One of the hard and difficult truths that we have to face, and it’s especially hard for people who are new believers and may not be aware that the church is really a lot more like a family that we realize, is that sometimes even the best of families will encounter conflict. People say and do things that, intentionally or not, leave others wounded. This is no less true in the church family. Unfortunately there have been many church conflicts that caught multitudes of believers unaware. The end result has been that many people have left…fled like a scalded dog…and might never become a part of a church again.
In one church I heard about a small group of people who had always held the political power of the church began to see that power eroding away as new families were joining the church. In an effort to maintain their power they began to stir conflict within the church. The damage that this small group of people did will be a scar on that church and on the community for years to come.
A personal story goes back to that trail to Little Rock Pond where my wife and I spent our honeymoon. I think if you were to ask our friends and family that they would have told you that they didn’t know many other couples who were as deeply in love as we were. For nearly three years we had pretty much wrapped ourselves up in each other. So, it would have surprised them to know that on our first full day as a married couple, on the side of the mountain leading up to our honeymoon spot we had a knock-down drag-out fight. The details are not that important, but it could have ended with us both deciding that we were going to go our separate ways. However, twenty years have passed and we continue to be totally in love. There have been times when I have thought it might have been easier to have walked away, but oh what I would have missed out on.
I don’t want to scare you away, but to make sure that you enter into this connection with the community of faith knowing that you will not find a perfect church filled with perfect people. You are becoming part of a family, and as with any family there are some family members who…well can be challenging at best. I have a tee shirt that I found a Wal-Mart a year ago or so that tells it like it is. There is a picture of a squirrel with an acorn in his hand and a wild look in his eyes and these words splattered across the front of the shirt: “Most of the people who drive me nuts are in my family.”
That could be the testimony of every church in the world. However, we are only able to control and be responsible for ourselves. I urge you once again, look at the “One Another” passages above. Make them part of your everyday experience, and you will find yourself loving the church and even the nuts that are sometimes scattered within the family.
Review: Looking Back at the Seventh Step on the Trail
Think about your family Reunions. If they are normal then they might sometimes get interesting. What’s been the most interesting family experience in your family?
The Challenges that show up in our families may also appear from time to time in your church family. The benefits of family can sometimes be clouded by the burdens that come along with it. You have to determine to look past one another’s faults and follies and remember that God has loved you so much and He has brought you together as His family.
Jot Down some thoughts and ideas that you have concerning the family of God and your place in the fold.
YOU HAVE COMPLETED THE TRAIL GUIDE – CONGRATULATIONS!