Fellowship as a spiritual discipline? Yes, please. Fellowship that brings me closer to the throne of God and his people? Yes, please. Fellowship that stirs in me a desire to be a better. . .no, the BEST version of myself? Um, completely necessary.
My husband and I had had a long and tiring week leading a week of Bible School at our favorite after school program for underprivileged kiddos in our city. A place that tugs at your heart and makes you so grateful for every. little. blessing. But a place that can often get a little wild and crazy, too. The thing is, I knew this was going to be so when I invited our whole small group over for dinner on Friday. I knew that I would have something literally every single night from Sunday – Thursday. Every day I worked and every night I was out leading and teaching and yelling and praying and crafting and running (well, let’s not get carried away, there were no dogs chasing me or anything)
Now, that is not normal for me/us. We love to be an “unscheduled” family with lots of margin. When our kids don’t want to fill every moment with sports and activities, we never, ever press that issue. When we have nothing to do on a Saturday, we relish in it. In fact, after my long week, I spent my Friday in Sabbath at the beach. I recognize that I need to get away and be alone with God.
So, when we tried to schedule our small group’s July get together, we kept coming across vacations and time away and other things and it seemed like Friday was our only real option. My introverted husband (and small group leader. . .um, actually small groups pastor 🙂 ) was a little nervous. “What if I’m tired? Look at our week. We just can’t do one more thing.” But, it’s not a “thing,” I told him that it would be like icing on the cake of an incredible week. He didn’t buy in 100%. Maybe 70, but not 100%.
And, here’s what happened. Our sweet friends started arriving, food in hand. Brian had put a dry rub on the pork steaks but was tired after a long week, so when one of the guys arrived, he handed over the grilling tools and said “Have fun!” The poor baby of the crowd tumbled over and scraped his absolutely adorable face. One of the other kids cut his bare foot on a nail on the deck! (about which I stated, “these families are never coming back to our house!” and the reply was “you can’t keep us from coming back.”) When it started storming, we roasted marshmallows over the stove. And, when we were sitting around in the living room someone said, “Why is there a drawer on the floor?” Oops. That’s a honey-do project that was “hidden” on the bench under the table. . .until someone needed to sit on the bench. Then, a neighbor stopped in because she needed some encouragement and what did our little group do? We sat in the living room and prayed for her.
Guys, it was messy. And loud. And utterly important and amazing. Like one of the guys said this week, this is my church. Yes. These are my people. 100% I can’t think of something I wouldn’t do for any of them. I don’t have to try. I don’t have to impress or be perfect. My food doesn’t have to wow. (because, frankly, theirs does) In our time together I’ve had bathrooms missing towels and toilet paper, water leaks, musty smells, home repairs, naughty children, and so many more imperfect moments. You know who cares about that? No one.
One of my favorite verses ever is Acts 2:42. “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and prayer.” This is from when the church first began and they were meeting in homes, listening to the teachings, spending time together, eating together, and praying together. This is church, friends. Meeting. Eating. Praying. Loving. Encouraging. Col 3:8-17 says “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience.” How can we practice these things if we are never with people? How can we learn compassion if we are never challenged to be compassionate? How can we learn humility if we are never in situations where we have to put someone else’s needs first?
I have prayed with these people. I have shared in communion with them on my living room floor. We break break together every time we meet. We have not one teacher, but we teach each other. I have learned from every single one of them. I have seen them in good days and bad days. We’ve experienced joys and sorrows. They’ve made me better. They’ve made me want to be more like Jesus. They’ve challenged me to share my faith and to be more bold. They’ve let me know that I’m not alone. And that is true fellowship.
I’m not sure that I would list fellowship as a discipline. I just don’t know. But I can see why, in many books, it makes the cut. It is so important for our growth as humans. Try making it a priority. Stop saying you’re too busy. In a matter of time, you will see what I mean. Trust me.