Monday, January 28, 2013

Fellowship Without Fellowship is Dis-fellowhip

I have always felt the word “fellowship” to be a uniquely Christian word. I don’t hear it used in much casual conversation outside the church setting and probably for good reason. It is the word used most commonly to translate the Greek word koinonia in the New Testament which is a derivative of koinos which translates to “common.” Koinonos, another derivative is used to describe a relationship derived from sharing something in common. A relationship based on common values and shared responsibilities. In classical Greek it was used to refer to marriages that shared a common focus in life as well as common struggles.
Paul’s reminder in 1 Corinthians 1:9, that, “God is faithful, who has called you into fellowship with his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord” gives us pause as we ask for peace in a world where God has called us to be peace makers. It is not possible to have intimate communion with God without having intimate participation in the will of God.
When the Apostle John shares his insights in his last letters his prologue says, “We proclaim to you hat we have seen and heard, so that you may have fellowship (intimate participation) with us” he is reminding us our communion with God is determined by our communion (intimate participation) with each other. Of course, on the broader scale, in God’s economy, the “each other” refers to all whom God has called to be His own.
I call attention to this conditional requirement for relationship to God as a way of underlining the quintessential definition of church activity in Acts 2:42-47, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
I wonder if the “adding to their number” by God was because they were truly in fellowship.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Getting Help for Ministry

One of the most important activities for leaders is to include others in service. It also seems to be one of the most difficult, for several reasons. For some it is a matter of, “if you want a job done right do it yourself.” Others feel they are “pestering” people with small jobs that could just as easily be done by a few rather than by increasing the number of people involved. I have noticed that the main reason, however, is that leaders too often feel the are burdening people with tasks as opposed to encouraging them with opportunities.
Paul makes it clear we all have a part in the building up of the church, and, I pray we will begin to include everyone in our options for servants. When we do not ask people to take on opportunities we are limiting their joy and ownership of the mission of our congregation. Doing it ourselves robs our members of the grace of giving time and energy to God’s purpose at La Habra Christian Church. Asking for too little undermines the truth that no opportunity is considered to small to contribute to the success of reaching the lost. Begging for help instead of asking for service misses the big picture of our mission and purpose.
Here are some suggestions to help you the next time you have a chance to invite members to serve in a particular capacity:
Ask personally rather than rely on announcements. Remember that you're not looking for someone to “volunteer;” you’re looking for someone to commit to a ministry.
Develop strategic recruiting partnerships – build your network or a recruiting team. Don’t go it alone.
Recruit short-term project teams. The more specific the time limit, the more people you'll likely get to join you in help with a project. And short-term commitments might open the door to longer commitments.
Assume that a “no” means “not now,” or “not this position.” Think of a “no” as an open door to listen carefully to the reasons behind the “no.”
Develop roles and responsibilities or a ministry description for each position. Don’t fill any position until you find the person who matches what you're looking for.
Recruit specific people for specific roles.  (Adapted from The New Breed: Understanding & Equipping the 21st Century Volunteer, Group Publishing, 2013)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Shut the Gate!

In an essay titled “Please Shut This Gate” English author F.W. Boreham describes signs carefully placed by landowners throughout the landscape of New Zealand. “Please shut this gate,” was a message one could read often throughout his countryside, signs placed by fence owners intent on keeping some things from wandering away and some things from wandering in. Boreham has drawn his image from Isaiah 58:8, “Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard” (Taken from Jill Carattini in “A Slice of Infinity”).
There is good reason to close the gate on what is behind us. Behind us are the choices we made that hurt others, ourselves, and, God. If we do not shut the gate on them they could drag us into a self doubt that would sap our energy for doing good to those same people. Leaving the gate open allows the mindset which led us to make those choices to follow us and in times of weakness we will be more inclined to repeat our sins than overcome them.
Closing the gate in the face of Satan puts a barrier between us and him following Peter’s injunction to “flee the devil.” Closing the gate shuts off the many actions and incidents in our lives which hurt our efforts to do right and love God.
When the gate is closed we have not only kept something out we have also retained the good we have grown to learn and be because of God’s grace to us. Maybe it is this process of closing the gate behind us the Psalmist refers to when he exclaims in Psalms 23, “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”
Yes the path ahead holds challenges, dangers and even suffering, but, not from behind. God has our back and He has asked us to be His front.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Take Care of Today for Tomorrow

One month in the ancient Roman calendar that had an especially descriptive name was January. The Latin word janua means a door or window from which a person may look both ways, in other words, in and out--forward and back. Historians say that January is also derived from the name Janus, a common household god among the Romans. He was often depicted facing in two directions. Basically, he was looking forward and back.
A few weeks ago I encouraged you to look back on this year so you would be better equipped to look forward. As I struggled to do that I came to realize a simple truth philosophers have struggled with over time. How is it possible to live in the past or future while I am living in the present?
Duh! Right?
Today takes most of my time, energy, creativity, and, focus, because, today I have to answer life’s essential questions regarding relationships, health, direction, and, resolution. But, there is another truth equally as obvious, I cannot relate, be healthy, find my way or resolve life’s conflicts without my storehouse of experiences nor without regard to the consequences of my decisions today on tomorrow. I feel I am playing a lifetime game of twister with one foot behind, one foot in front, and, both hands stretched to today.
I have come to the conclusion life is just that way. There is no other option. So. what to do?
Paul says it this way in Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”
Accepting what has been done – has been done, and reaffirming what is to come is greater than I can possibly imagine, I must put all my energy in making sure that my existence today is given over to making Christ’s sacrifice and His grace the most important truth to every person with whom I have contact. Like Paul (really, even to a greater degree than Paul) I have failed in this daily effort. May God make me more like Paul who never gave up the effort.