by Jason Dawson
Why are Fellowship groups near and dear to my heart? When I was in my early 20’s I was newly married and recently born again. I was hungry to be mentored and discipled. I remember enjoying the kindness, and friendliness of the church we found in Independence. However, the longer I was there, I developed an urge to go deeper into the Word, to understand the things of God in deeper, more spiritual, and yes, even practical ways. Finally, after two years, I started inquiring about different Bible studies, and an older gentleman told me that he held a men’s weekly Bible study at his home every Thursday evening. I started to attend the Bible study in the inner-city of Kansas City. Over the next seven years, meeting nearly weekly, I listened to these older gentlemen open their lives up to me, show me how they were reading God’s Word, and how they were applying it in their daily life. I also began spending time with the men outside of the Bible study. I could see how they treated their families, how they raised their children, how they had a love and devotion to read and understand God’s Word. That was what I longed to experience. It was in the context of a “home group” that I began to see what was preached from the pulpit lived out. As a young man in this gentleman’s home, I was admonished, challenged, even rebuked and reproved, and God humbled me enormously through these relationships. This created in me a passion and an appetite as I have gotten older to do my best to encourage others to provide these kinds of contexts, and opportunities for spiritual growth within our own body.
Although one’s personal responsibility in sanctification is paramount (Philippians 2:12), sanctification cannot be accomplished in isolation. In other words, we weren’t made to do this Christian life by ourselves, and my experience has proven that. I was truly struggling before I found this opportunity for fellowship. FCC Fellowship Groups provide a tremendous context for sanctification to occur within our own body. Fellowship Groups provide encouragement, correction, and accountability that cannot be attained through simply attending and receiving a message for one hour on a Sunday morning.
Hearing God’s Word faithfully preached is vitally important, however, it is insufficient without life change (James 1:22-24). Reading the Bible and listening to faithful preaching doesn’t bear fruit unless it penetrates our hearts. Fellowship Groups provide a context to apply God’s Word in such a way that further seeks to penetrate our hearts and allow intentional relationships to walk together toward this kind of spiritual growth and maturity.
Personal Care… Accountability… Transparency… Sharpening… Service, all benefits of fellowship groups.
One of the benefits of meeting in fellowship groups is the mutual giving and receiving of care on an individual basis. In Fellowship Groups care is spread out around the body, but on a personal basis, so that in our best effort no one is overlooked or neglected (1 Cor. 12:24-26). This provides us opportunities to care for one another when we are sick, when a new baby is born, when we have a particular need and we want to share something with closer relationships within the body. In our fellowship groups we have the opportunity to share the joys and struggles in our relationship with God and life circumstances as well as encourage and pray for one another. These close relationships encourage us to be transparent with one another, sharpen one another with the word, and use the word preached to further penetrate our hearts for life change. This is where we get to work out the details of application from Sunday’s sermons, God’s word, challenge each other when we sin, and celebrate with one another in the overcoming of sin! These relationships afford us the opportunity to experience the Christian life as members of the body serving one another, and not simply being mere spectators. Fellowship Groups provide the place for the “one another” verses in the Bible.
The New Testament contains over 50 “one another” verses. Here is are just a few:
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another….Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves…..Therefore encourage one another and build each other up….Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds….Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling…. Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you.”
Exercising the gifts within the body of Christ….
Fellowship Groups also provide context for our Giftedness to be used through living out those “one another” verses. God has given spiritual gifts to every Christian (1 Cor. 12:1-7) and he desires that we use them for one another. But it’s simply not realistic in our three services for every member to use his or her gifts. In a smaller and more personal environment such as Fellowship Groups, each one can experience and express how God has gifted them by the Holy Spirit.
Things that are good for you aren’t always easy…..
Although FCC Fellowship Groups are a great context for sanctification, they aren’t always easy, but we are called to be in community.
“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.”- Hebrews 10:24–25
There are sometimes challenges when you get into close proximity into the lives of people. It’s not easy to see people sin, and to speak the truth in love. There are times when I am tired from the day, and being around a lot of people is sometimes difficult, but it is so rewarding when we are able to spend quality time with other fellow believers.
Change can be hard …..
When God brings change into our life, like new relationships, often our natural response is to resist. However, I have realized over the years that there is often a war going on in our lives: my flesh vs. my new inner man that is in Christ.
Galatians 5:17 says, “For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”
Although there are difficult reasons and excuses we can come up not to join a Fellowship Group let me encourage you to fight through the comforts of this world. Pastor Tim has preached recently in his sermon “The Christian Athlete” we are like a Christian athlete; we must go and do these things we naturally don’t want to do. Pastor Tim gives the example that our body wants to stay and sleep, but we need to get up and run. We want to veg on the couch and watch TV, but we need to get up, go to the gym, and work out. The next time your natural body doesn’t want to go to a Fellowship Group or “We don’t feel like being around a lot of people we don’t know well”, I want to encourage us to push past our flesh, and find a group, pour out our life, serve, love, and contribute to the body here at FCC.
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