Posts tagged ‘community’

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.

Advertisements
December 30, 2011

2011 Stickers

by pastortimfowler

Here are a few things that 2011 left stuck in my brain:
1. The 7th grandkid is as awesome to welcome to the family as the 1st. My youngest son and his wife brought into the world, Bryson, and it was as exciting as ever. I am always blown away by seeing a newborn and especially from one of my own children. God gives us a special miracle in every child and as we were blessed with our now 7th grandkid, I am still in awe. SEVEN grandkids!!! WOW!!!
2. Jake got a kidney. Jake was born with many medical problems and one that effected many of the others was his need for a working kidney. Early in the year he got his new kidney and since then his improvement has been nothing less than miraculous. At 2 years old, he could not eat solid food, his speech was extremely limited, and just the hassle of dialysis was horrible. But since the transplant he has began to eat, talk, and so many of the other problems have shown improvement. He was not supposed to ever be born alive, but God had other plans. Now he is more alive than ever.
3. Our church has grown. 2010 was a very tough year in many ways and made 2011 start off with much anticipation and even some anxiety. We had bought a building and the economy was tanking and our people were struggling to keep and find jobs. Financially it was tough. We needed to make some improvement to the building and numerical growth was minimal. But our people made tough choices and sacrificed and we survived. This last year we have seen our finances grow to allow us to make the improvements needed and our numerical growth has been incredible. We saw over 70 people raise their hand to salvation and over 50 of those were baptized. But what is the best growth of all came in the spiritual side of people. God brought up and brought in leaders. Many of our new folks grew into servants and servant leaders. We reached out to our community in ways that exceeded all expectations. We gave to help meet the needs of most anyone who asked and to many who didn’t. We did not grow to be the biggest church in town, but I do believe we may have grown the biggest heart for people in need. God has to be pleased with their unselfishness and love for our neighbors.
4. I am still married. No, we were not nearly divorced. But I consider myself to blessed beyond measure every year that I can say that I am married to her. If you only knew me like she knows me, you would know that she must be something special to put up with me. As shocking as that may sound, because I can be wonderful, she gets that part of me that is, how should I say, not so wonderful. Proverbs 18:22 Whoever finds a wife finds something good and has obtained favor from the Lord. I have to smile and even laugh to think that God shows me favor. If there has ever been a guy who did NOT deserve God’s favor it would be me. But because of His great love, mercy, and forgiveness and because Jesus paid my sin debt, I am not just a Christian, but God loves me and even shows it in giving me my wife.
I look forward to 2012. God has great things in store for me and for you.

July 5, 2011

5 July, 2011 15:40

by pastortimfowler

After a long weekend I should be rested and ready to go, but I feel tired and ready to stay. No rest for the weary at my house on the 4th of July weekend. Every kid in the ‘hood had fireworks and from the time it was almost dark until the wee hours it sounded like a war zone. Add to that a dog that is petrified of the noise and another who thinks that she should go outside and bark at them and that equals little sleep.
For any holiday that is celebrated with fireworks, the people of my community start warming up a couple of days before and usually continue for a couple of day after. This has been the norm for as long as I have lived there and that has been 8 years now. You might think that this is just a very patriotic crowd, but it is not. They may be patriotic, I don’t really know, but that is not the reason they do this. I can’t for the life of me understand the obsession, but I wish that I could open a fireworks stand for those weeks because then I could probably afford to move.
When we moved here we did it because of our church. We want to live in the place that we serve in. We really want to know the people and help if we can and be part of their lives in some way. For years we helped with food, clothing, shelter, utilities, and education. We tried to learn where folks were hurting and how our church could help ease the pain. But something weird keeps happening and it is not just in our ‘hood, it is everywhere in America that there is a “low-income neighborhood”. I remind you that I am qualified to say these things that I am getting ready to say because I live there and am trying to be part of the solution.
How can someone be so poor that they can’t buy food without food stamps but can afford enough fireworks to last for days? You can’t pay your light bill or your rent, but you can keep me awake all night with the explosions you can afford. This makes no sense. It is not just fireworks, but almost every kid in the ‘hood has a cellphone and are using it all the time. We could not give away Wranglers and generic shirts because they weren’t FUBU. I went to buy me a FUBU outfit and couldn’t afford it, but the people I am trying to help can.
I had one family who wanted us to pay their rent, pull up in a fairly new F-150 pulling a very nice grill and smoker combo on wheels. I know that I could have sold that combo for about $1000 and that covers anyone’s rent in that ‘hood for sure. I don’t think these guys were originally from here because they didn’t speak English and when I ask if they were legally here they quickly drove away.
I love our country and the opportunities it offers. I love the generosity of the people in the USA and the way we go out of our way to help those who are in need. Yet I hear people all the time getting upset about poor people and illegal people misusing the system. Being poor is never going to be eliminated and because of that, there will always be ministry for those who want to help. The problem is trying to wade through the stupidity of those who ask for help while wearing designer cloths, talking on their cell phone and shooting hundreds of dollars of fireworks all night long, as they beg for help to pay their light bill and helping someone who is truly in need.
I pray for wisdom as I continue to live in the ‘hood. I pray that people will wise up and quit blowing money on fireworks and start paying their bills. I pray that I will always have a heart for those less fortunate than myself and that if I have to lose sleep it will be because of my burden to help not because of the noise of fireworks that they can’t afford.