Posts tagged ‘brothers’

June 6, 2012

Cliques

by pastortimfowler

http://www.flickr.com/photos/maandag/2881628357/

I am not sure why I am blogging about a word that I had to look up in order to spell it properly. I want to spell it the way it sounds, click, but NOOOOO, it has to be spelled like a french word or something. Anyway, I was reading in 1 Corinthians chapter 11 today about a problem that the early church was having when people got together in small groups and started being exclusive to the point of being snobbish. This is how the Apostle Paul states it, 1 Corinthians 11:18, In the first place, I hear that when you gather as a church you split up into opposing groups. I believe some of what I hear. I hear from people all the time about their dislike of cliques, especially in the church and how rude they think it can be. So I got to thinking about what this really is and how did it come to be in an organization like the church where we are to love each other as brothers and sisters.
There is a huge difference in a clique and a small group, as most churches call there Bible studies and fellowship groups. Small groups are very biblical and are important to the Christian life. The average Sunday morning church attendance in the US is 75 people. That sounds low, but there are far more small churches than there are mega churches. It is not uncommon in many rural areas to have only 10 to 20 in attendance on any give Sunday. From that, the average small group consists of 5-8 people. Many try to make their small group the largest in a church, but that begins to get into the topic that Paul wrote about in the verse above.
Most people only have between 2 and 8 people in their lives that they can call real friends. I am talking about people that they socialize with on a regular basis and have more than a casual relationship like you see in most churches. Most people who attend church together only see each other on Sunday morning. Fewer than half of the people who attend on Sunday morning will attend a small group of any type related to the church. It is one of the reasons for the decline of church attendance if you ask me. Before every family had a car and most lately 2 and 3 cars per household, it was most likely that someone attending church was going to a local house of worship with fellow family members and folks that farmed or worked in the same community. This meant that they really knew each other and were able to better help in times of need. It also meant that relationships were more than superficial.
So the small group was started by Jesus who picked 12 disciples to teach and hang out with regularly. Then the modern church started Sunday school classes for age appropriate classes and even had male and female and married couples and singles classes. It was very common to have one class have the patriarchal family members in it that class and it became the class that had the most pull when it came to decisions in the church. This was never the intent of Jesus when He started a small group, but that is how we came to the point of having cliques. It is those cliques that cause people to become divisive and others to feel like they don’t fit in, not only to a small group, but to a church.
I love small groups. It is a great place to hang out with people who I can get close to. People who share my struggles as a parent, husband, or whatever my uniqueness is that draws us to that group. It is not a clique to have a group of guys who like to fish, hanging out together on a regular basis. It is a clique if those guys think that they are more special than another group and begin to make it impossible for anyone else to ever fit in with them.
I have been able to bring people to my small group who did not yet feel comfortable coming to Sunday morning worship. Through the small group they have made friends and found it easier to then come for the regular worship time. That is one of the great purposes that every small group should be striving for. We do have some groups that are a little more exclusive by the nature of what they are talking about. Our recovery classes help people with addictions and although I think that they would make someone feel welcome, it would just not be appropriate for someone who does not have an addiction they need help with. That is not a clique.
So if you have small groups in your church, use them as a tool to welcome others and never to exclude. If your small group is excluding others just because they don’t want new people, it might be time to change groups or even churches. There are a lot of great churches out there and we should never let a bad experience stop us from making friends or attending worship on a regular basis.

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January 6, 2012

Make Disciples

by pastortimfowler

By now those who follow my blogs have noticed that these early 2012 blogs have been rather serious. Don’t lose heart, the humor is still here, but the challenge to tweak a few things in my life has hit me pretty hard. Many in our church have been saying for months that we felt like God was going to do something big in our church this year and I agree. But I have always believed that God will start with the leader and this time is not different.
Jesus gave the command to go into all the world and make disciples, and, this is something I love, but can improve on. Standing before a group of people on Sunday mornings preaching a sermon is not making disciples. It is an important part of my calling and I love it, but God expects all of us to help others grow in their Christian life. This is not any different from any other family. Older brothers and sisters should help teach the younger siblings how to be productive parts of the family. Since the church is full of brothers and sisters in Christ with God as our Father, it only makes sense that we help the young to grow in their faith.
My wife and I have taken this challenge serious for years, and I can look back through the years at the younger brothers and sisters that have grown and are now teaching others. This year we are purposefully picking a few young men and women to pour our lives into. We are not going to teach them to be deacons or Sunday School teachers, but we are going to teach them how to know what God has in store for them and help them pursue that.
A wise man once told me that you only have to be one step ahead to lead. This sounds simplistic and it is true. But what we are missing is the fact that much too often, those who are a step ahead end up sitting still and stay where they are, thus they quit leading and began gathering a crowd. Jesus was not about gathering crowds, He gathered a group of people to live with and teach a lifestyle to, not a position in the church. He taught them about life as His follower, not how to act in a building on Sundays.
Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us to teach people how to have church. We are to teach people how to have Christ, then how to live as Christians. Christianity is meant to be a life of discipline in the ways of Christ. That is what a disciple is, someone who is disciplined. Discipline is not punishment, it is living under control and in subjection to the ways of Christ. It is about learning how to do what the Bible says and not just learning what it says. And, for a person to do this they must first see it in action.
If you are one step ahead, keep taking the steps needed to lead. Don’t rest because you feel as if you have reached your potential. God has no limits and neither do the ones who follow His ways. Church is not the place where Christians live, it is the pit stop in the race to the finish. It is where we rest and fuel up and get a cool drink of living water in order to go back out and run the race.
I am looking forward to leading this group of young men. I eagerly look forward to the day that they are leading others and so on. After Jesus left this world to go and prepare a place for us, he left behind men and women who understood that the leading was now on them. Each one of them was responsible for leading others and then those were responsible for even more. Fast forward and couple of thousand years and millions upon millions have come to know Christ. The family has grown and yet somehow we seem to have reached the point where we are satisfied with a weekend meeting. It is time to rethink what the church has become and return to the command of Christ to make disciples.