Fellowship is defined as sharing life together. We share life together as a church when we laugh together, cry together, celebrate together, and sit around a table together. Fellowship is simply being together and being on mission together in the ups and downs as we sojourn through life.
In the last newsletter, we discussed the reason for the breakdown in fellowship. I want us to turn our attention to the ‘fix’ for the breakdown in fellowship.
Intentionality and fellowship is a strange problem because often fellowship happens with very little intentionality. Yet I am also convinced, we want fellowship to occur completely organically. The problem is that for something to be truly great and healthy, there must be purposeful intentionality. Rarely does something truly great happen by chance.
This intentionality rule is true about fellowship as well. As leaders and leadership teams, we cannot and must not leave fellowship to chance. We must be intentional when it comes to fellowship in the church and among the believers in the church.
You see intentionality or the lack of intentionality is one of the biggest culprits yet the easiest fixes when it comes to fellowship. When a church is starting, fellowship is something that just happens because of all the excitement of the new, yet as the years progress this excitement wains and with it the fellowship that ‘just happens’. Sadly when proceeding as it will ‘just happen’, we don’t realize there is an issue until there is a problem.
- Align leadership
If the leadership team of the church is on different pages, the church will be on different pages. If the leadership team of the church is telling different stories, the church will be in confusion. As the leadership team goes, so does the church. This is true across the board for a church or organization, including the building block of fellowship.
- Renewed vision
When, “what are we fighting for?”, turns from “What we are fighting for!”, things begin to go sideways. Without a clear, specific, and defined vision, people will make up their own vision. The result will be silos heading in different directions, wrestling for resources.
Vision or mission after a period of time naturally drifts and goes out of focus. Therefore, there is a need to renew that vision regularly. This renewed vision could undergo slight modifications, significant modifications, or no modifications at all, the point it to keep the vision in front of the people, enabling the church as a whole to move in the same direction.
From a fellowship standpoint, a church that is heading is the same direction will naturally have strong fellowship. A church that isn’t headed in the same direction will naturally have dysfunction in its fellowship.
- Model fellowship with those in the church
If you are a pastor or a church leader and you want fellowship to be healthy, you must practice healthy fellowship. As leaders, we must model it. If you want individuals and families to go out to lunch together on Sunday after church together, then you must be doing it as well. If you want people to be talking with one another before and after the church service, you must be talking to people before and after the service. If you want people to get together during the week, you must be doing that as well. If you want people to go to people’s times of celebration or mourning, then you need to be there sharing life together.
Fellowship isn’t difficult but people must see it modeled. Further, people must also see that if it is good for you, then it will also be good for them. Practice what you preach, the church is watching you and they will cue from you.
Lack of forgiveness is a hindrance to healthy fellowship, therefore forgiveness is a fix to that unhealthy fellowship. Animosity and lack of trust will consistently result in dysfunctional fellowship. The math is as sure as 1+1=2.
Followers of Jesus are human, therefore fallible. Because of this wrongs and misspoken words will occur, whether intentional or not or whether malicious or not. Therefore forgiveness is essential. Without this forgiveness, these wrongs or words will snowball into fractured fellowship.
- Creating environments where connections are made and deepened
As a church leader, one of your roles is creating environments where the Holy Spirit can easily and naturally work. One of these environments we must cultivate is space for fellowship. Maybe this is some sort of special event like a dinner and movie event or a game night with your small group/Sunday school ministry or a cookout whether small group or church-wide. Maybe this could be before or after your worship celebration times with coffee and donuts or just simply stimulating those conversations through you and your leadership team’s modeling.
The point is we can’t leave fellowship to chance, we must be actively creating an environment and culture of fellowship.
- Clear teaching and emphasis on fellowship
Teaching and simply encouraging fellowship from the platform/pulpit can’t be overemphasized. Healthy fellowship is biblical, therefore we must teach it. Fellowship is one of the major building blocks for a healthy church, therefore we must teach it regularly.
Further, I am convinced that pastors under-utilize the platform for leadership purposes. When it comes to leadership and fellowship, we must emphasize it and encourage it from the platform. We can do this when we, in our welcome time, sermon time, and concluding time. Please hear me, I am not talking about a ‘fellowship time’ of going around shaking hands during the welcome, which is programmatic and in many ways curtails the desired result. Specifically, I say that as leaders we need to speak of the essential nature of fellowship from the platform.
Fellowship is essential, fellowship can be broken, yet fellowship can be restored through intentional leadership.