It should be a basic goal of every organization to establish some degree of fellowship among its members.
As a case study, let’s consider the task of building a Men’s Breakfast Fellowship, which started in mid-October, 2009, when Andrew called some of his friends to meet earlier for a breakfast discussion before embarking on a weekend adventure. The day went well, and the breakfast interaction seemed to encourage those who came, making the whole day better. So, Andrew kept calling them to meet for breakfast, and soon it developed into a Men’s Christian Fellowship and Prayer group.
Then in June, 2010, Andrew fell ill with tendonitis, and was also desperately busy during the month. As a result, the Men’s Breakfast Fellowship was not called to meet for a couple weeks, until the first Saturday of July.
On the day before, Andrew wanted to call or send an e-mail to everyone, to remind them about the meeting. But at the last minute, Andrew decided to save himself the effort just to see who would call to ask about the meeting, and who would show up. No one called, and only one person showed up. Andrew was really disappointed to discover that if he didn’t make the effort, the whole group would dissolve.
Andrew considered a larger perspective. He saw that the fellowship petered out to nothing, during the time that he could not support it. From studying history, he knew that usually, when a leader fails, the group will disband, but that also means that God is not in the movement. If God is in it, then God will bring others to step in and support the cause. From this observation, Andrew really questioned whether building this fellowship was merely an effort in the flesh, and he prayed about this question for a while.
After praying a while, he reached the conclusion that fellowship is indeed a KEY PART of Christian life, and leadership and discipleship are important parts too. But heading a fellowship is a job too great for one man to do alone. Sometimes Andrew got angry and bitter, because he felt like he was all alone, and doing all the work in the fellowship. He once said,
“It really sucks to care about people who don’t care about each other!”
He concluded that there needs to be at least TWO MATURE MEN to lynchpin everyone together, and share the burden of discipling the others. For a Biblical example, Jesus always sent his apostles out in groups of two.
During their meeting the following Saturday, Andrew asked the others why this enterprise was so difficult to create. One of the men, Josh pointed out that a lot of the people who have been invited to the Breakfast Fellowship, don’t really LIKE some of the others who come. The group continued to be really tenuous for this reason.
“Whenever someone is asked to join our fellowship, the first question that always comes up is, ‘Who else will be there?’”
Predictably, if someone is named, who is very unlikeable in that persons mind, then fellowship will be neglected. Also, if this question is avoided, the invited person will lose interest, and possibly grow suspicious.
It became clear that people have a general tendency to limit their social interactions to only include those people whom they LIKE. They only want to hang out with the “COOL guys”! For a lot of people, that only means, those who will not rock the boat.
Andrew posed the question to them,
“How can we garner a decent respect for those who are fundamentally different from ourselves?”
After some discussion on this, he encouraged the men to postpone their attempts at Christian LOVE for now, and first focus on achieving Christian LIKE. By that he meant,
Another related question that came up, which is perhaps a deeper problem, was,
“Women love themselves pretty well, but how can a MAN love himself?”
The bible predicts that the people of this age would be “haters of God“, and “lovers of self“. So if these pansies consider that their main problem is that they have trouble loving themselves, I would say they are fitting the bill nicely.
First of all, we should all recognize that although there might be lots of things we dislike about each other, nevertheless, we still NEED each other. Secondly, we must recognize that those people who have the qualities we most need, are often the same people we intensely dislike.
The ego-smacking realization that we all NEED the people we DISLIKE, is such a huge turn-off that most people would forsake fellowship before they would face this negative truth. Others even deny that they indeed need others.
Guard yourself against this type of delusion.
As a leader, Andrew struggles to display the fulfillment of those needs through Christian fellowship, as an enticement that is greater than the common offense taken when we are faced with the mundane affront of our yet-to-be-redeemed selves. But we have found that certain individuals are so spiritually rough, that they create stark social challenges for the others. As such, some are naturally indignant when asked to remain faithful in the presence of behavior that they consider to be depraved. In short, our own fallen nature creates these rifts in unity. But by starting this fellowship, Andrew is betting against the odds that these guys will have a spiritual hunger that outweighs their ego. But sometimes, Andrew feels like this is a bigger venture than he first imagined.
Andrew once believed that people could come to the fellowship, experience God, and learn to love and serve each other in the process. After all, isn’t this the ideal we strive to believe by attending Church? But in practice, we’ve found that the endeavor is much more complicated than that.
Some major problems arising from the issue of liking or disliking each other, which have become hindrances to fellowship, are the poor quality of COMMITMENT and the general level of DISINTEREST. Generally people have the attitude of,
“I only care about the interests of others if I can derive an immediate benefit for myself.”
But of course, they will never admit it to themselves or anyone else. It’s basically self-centered pride and immaturity, and it is sad that this attitude even shows up within the Christian community. It’s even more sad that we have grown used to seeing it.
God expects EACH man to put his hand on the plow, in his own way, before He will bless the harvest.
Think about that for a moment.
It is usually a bad idea to separate the people who can “get along” into distinct groups. The members of a group need to have some significant and fundamental differences, or else they risk becoming a socially degenerate CLIQUE that has a NEGATIVE spiritual impact.
However, history and practice has shown that exclusivity is sometimes necessary to preserve a semblance of unity and order, which make the ministry more efficient towards achieving a common purpose within the group.
Therefore, the people who come to the fellowship must first take it upon themselves to form a moderate LIKING of each other (and of his own self), and make a personal commitment to the welfare of the others. In other words, each person needs to learn how to appreciate and respect the unique differences of the others, without letting their weaknesses invoke imbalances in unity. It helps to recognize that it is a great mark of faith to recognize that God uses groups of individuals who may very well be enemies in the flesh.
The leaders should take on the task of revealing these mysteries, thereby showing that there is a greater purpose in life than merely making our day more pleasant by avoiding those who they feel are tedious and difficult. But on the other hand, if one individual should prove to be so onerous that the fellowship is disrupted, thereby distracting the others from those greater goals, then the leaders need to make some special arrangements to deal with that one.
Once the higher goal is made clear, and all distractions are cleared away, the others should receive the calling to embark on the adventure of Christian Fellowship, and all the blessings that it holds.