How to Energize Your Fellowship

by Andy Wood on July 10, 2012

in Enlarging Your Capacity, Five LV Laws, Insight, Life Currency, LV Cycle, Principle of Increase

How many times have you heard or said something like this:

  • “This place feels dead.”
  • “We have some unresolved issues.”
  • “This relationship just isn’t working.”
  • “I can forgive, but I just can’t forget.”
  • “I don’t feel like I belong – I just don’t feel any connection with them.”
  • “It’s just going to take some time before I can trust him again – if I ever do.”

These and many more are expressions of a strained or dysfunctional fellowship.  And if you’ve ever been part of the church scene or had any experience with Christ followers for any length of time, more than likely you’ve landed there.  Which reminds me…

Somebody once asked, “Pray for me. I’m surrounded by non-believers every day at work.”

My reply:  “Pray for me – I’m surrounded by Christians every day!”

Is it any wonder that Jesus’ one explicit prayer request for this generation was that we would be one, so that the world would believe in Him (John 17:20-21)? So, Phil, how’s that workin’ out for ya’?

Spiritual Homelessness

Over the last two and a half years, I have never ceased to be amazed at the number of spiritually homeless people I have come across.  As I’ve gone through an ever-evolving transition time, the most common question I have received isn’t, “How are you doing?” or even “What are you doing these days?”  The most common question is, “Where are you going to church?”

These weren’t accountability checkups.  They were hungry, sometimes desperate inquiries for somewhere that actually felt like home.  In short, they were looking for fellowship that worked.  Spiritual connections with other people that could breathe some life into them.

And they were exhausted from the search.

While I can relate, this isn’t meant to be yet another attack on the local church.  I think I’ve made my point on that before.   In fact, I think I’ve stumbled into an idea that can breathe new life, energy, and effectiveness into damaged, dysfunctional, or dead spiritual relationships.  It can work in the church house or your house.  And here’s the really cool part – you don’t have to add anything else to your already-busy, tired life.

Living on the Golden Edge

If you have a typical leather-bound English Bible and have used it any length of time, turn it up edgeways and look where the gold has worn off the edge of the pages.  These are the “brown page” sections of your Bible – the places you visit frequently.

But there’s gold in them thar’ gold pages.  And the tiny book of Philemon is probably one of those places.  There Paul is writing to a Christian slave owner(!) about a tricky situation.  His runaway slave has come to visit Paul, has become a believer in Christ, and now is being sent back by Paul with this letter.

Talk about your strained fellowship.  Where should we start?

How about in what Paul prays for this man:

and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake (Philemon 6, NASB).

Side note:  This is a hard verse to translate because it talks about the relationship between two things – the fellowship of our faith and the full knowledge of every good thing that is in us.  But which comes first?  It’s hard to tell from the language.

“May become effective” comes from the Greek word from which we get the word “energized.”  Paul wants Philemon’s fellowship in the faith to be energized. The word is translated, “to work” or “to be in working order.”

This is where you sit up and pay attention.  That is, if you want your relationships with other believers “to work.”  What makes it work?  Where does spiritual fellowship come alive with energy, passion, power, and unity?  What can resurrect a dead fellowship or heal a broken one?

A Cause and Effect

Based on the translation above, Paul says there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between an energized fellowship and “the knowledge of every good thing this is in you for Christ sake.”  The point:  the more completely aware I am, both by understanding and by experience, of every good thing that is in me, the more effective will be my fellowship in the faith.

Here’s how it would flesh out in Philemon’s life.  When he recognized every good thing that has happened in his life for Christ sake, he would realize that once he, too was a runaway slave – a slave to sin and death.  But now he has been adopted by grace into God’s household as a younger brother to Christ.  Not as a second-class citizen but a full-fledged family member.  As he recognized this amazing truth, it would change the way he saw Onesimus, his runaway slave.  It would radically energize his fellowship with him.

That’s just one example.

The implications of this are profound.  You don’t increase your effectiveness by adding something to what you already have.  You increase it through understanding what is already in you.  All spiritual growth is an unpacking of what happened in your life the day you first encountered Jesus.

This is a huge gap-bridger and fellowship builder.  The more you know – truly know – all the blessings you have by virtue of your relationship with Christ, the more powerful your fellowship with others will be.  The more solutions you have for conflict situations.  The more unity of the faith you experience.

God’s intention is that you perfectly (completely) know every good thing that is in you for Christ’s sake.  Fellowship and unity takes on new life and energy when you do.

See, profoundly blessed people don’t have much time to feel sorry for themselves.  Amazed-by-grace people can trace the grace on the faces of others, and it genuinely excites them.  Those who have been raised from the dead by the power of Christ have no trouble expecting Him to raise a dead church or a dead friendship.

Show me an iced-over fellowship, and I’ll show you somebody who’s clueless or forgetful about what Jesus has poured into their lives.

Maybe it’s time to do some remembering.

Maybe it’s time to retake your inventory.

Maybe it’s time to be amazed again.

When you do, get ready.  Some dry-bones fellowships are going to come back to life for you.

Martha Orlando July 10, 2012 at 10:26 am

“God’s intention is that you perfectly (completely) know every good thing that is in you for Christ’s sake. Fellowship and unity takes on new life and energy when you do.” How perfectly you have expressed what it means to live the Christian life with joy and thanksgiving! For when we are aware of all the good things He has done for us, it can’t help but shine out to others with hope and grace.
Wonderful reflection, Andy!
Martha Orlando´s last blog post .." . . . My Insides Shake Like a Leaf on a Tree . . ."

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