If you stop by the Connect Kiosk this Sunday in the Fellowship Hall you’ll notice that my display of artistic elements has changed from Stewardship to Fellowship and Community Life. November easily speaks to these two Holy Habits, doesn’t it? But for me, it takes the prize as my favorite month of the year, first, because of Thanksgiving, and second because it’s my birthday month. Those two holidays have always been juxtaposed in my thinking, and I find that significant.
I am deeply thankful to have been born in a country where freedom and opportunity still go hand in hand, where “In God We Trust” is still found on our currency (even if many have forgotten what that means), and where I still go out my front door each morning with rejoicing in my heart because I know the One who rules and reigns throughout the world. Those feelings of well-being, gratitude and security tie in to our Holy Habits (Spiritual Disciplines) this month.
One of the definitions for “fellowship” in the dictionary is friendly association, but in the body of Christ, the Church, I think it has much more depth, and can only be fully defined through the lenses of Scripture. The second chapter of Acts tells us that the early church “devoted” themselves to “the fellowship.” That’s serious business, isn’t it? No ‘come-together-when-you-feel-like-it’ mentality! And in their devotion to the fellowship, to studying under the Apostles’ teaching, to praying and breaking bread together, the early church CHANGED THE WORLD!! Is our mandate today any less??? I don’t think so!
But if you continue reading in the book of Acts you’ll find that the Apostles didn’t stay in their close-knit community in Jerusalem. Or even in Samaria. They followed the commission Jesus gave them to go and make disciples. They established spiritual communities – churches – in every part of the world. Which brings me to the Holy Habit of “Community Life.”
We tend to think of the location where we live as our community, don’t we? And in the larger sense of the word, it is. (Just take a look at the Wooster Scott painting on the Connect Kiosk!) But I remember when I moved to the Chicago area some years ago. I specifically wanted to live in a place that had a sense of community life, including a real downtown rather than highways filled with strip malls. When we settled in just such a town, and I became involved in local politics, I really came to know the true meaning of community. Politics is not for the faint of heart; it is, however a huge part of the nitty-gritty of community life.
One of the main lessons I learned from being engaged with others in that small town outside Chicago is that true community life involves knowing and being known. It’s not meant to be observed in a passive, casual way. It involves caring and sharing – the good and the bad. It demands authenticity and open-minded thinking. It flourishes when conflict is addressed in healthy ways. And it can’t be lived out fully if not experienced and embraced.
What keeps us from engaging fully in fellowship and community life in the church? I’m sad to say that for many of us it just isn’t the main priority. Perhaps we haven’t experienced the value of it and the blessings it can bring. But it’s not too late – if we open our eyes and our hearts to Jesus and to each other. You might ask: What’s in it for me? Just this: a chance to change, the opportunity to grow, and the blessing of following in the footsteps of Christians down through the ages. And with the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing at our backs, we, like the early church, CAN change the world!!!