Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Koinonia / Fellowship

I'm doing Kelly Minter's Bible Study - "What Love Is" with a friend right now. We just started, but the Holy Spirit is using His Word to speak volumes to my heart. VOLUMES.

I just finished today's section & I'm marinating on it. The following is pretty much stream of thought as I share my heart.

1 John 1:1-4
"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched - this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us. We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ. We write this to make our joy complete."

Today's lesson is based upon John's writing about the importance of fellowship.

I remember having a little mini-lesson on fellowship when I spent the night with my best friend one Saturday night. Her mom was preparing her lesson for her Sunday School class & we were gifted with having a discussion from the overflow of what God was doing in her mom's heart. It's a big deal that I remember this (because I have the worst memory ever), but what I took away from it was that fellowship meant being in the same boat - fellow + ship. I also took away the understanding of how important this is to a Christian & how God designed us to fellowship.

A year or two later, I found myself studying fellowship in a Bible class in college. I learned that the Greek word for fellowship is koinonia. It means: having in common, joint ownership, or partnership.
Say what?? You mean, that doesn't mean sharing watermelon on the grounds after church?? In fact, I didn't read one thing about food in that definition! (hehe kidding. Kind of. Southern Baptist, y'all!) As soon as learned more about koinonia, I was captivated by everything it stood for. It was everything I love about relationships. It was everything I NEEDED as a Christian. As much as I love to give someone a smile & a quick, "Howdy do!" that is not what I needed in life. I CRAVED relationships with depth, people I could be real with, & more specifically - people who have Jesus in common.

I am so thankful for the life I was blessed with. As a teen, I had the greatest youth group. I was surrounded by friends that loved me, I had a great time with them, they also loved Christ, & they encouraged me daily to walk more closely with Him. I didn't know it at the time, but THAT was koinonia. THAT was fellowship. Those relationships laid the foundation for what I look for in friendships now & what I know to pray for as God moves us around.

In the Bible Study, Kelly (bffs, y'all) goes on to remind us that this isn't just something John was writing to this specific people. In John 17:20-23, Jesus' prayer is recorded:
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one. Father, just as you are in me and I am in You. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that You have sent me. I have given them the glory that You gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and You in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that You sent me and have loved them even as You have loved me."
No wonder this is something that I crave! It's something that Christ desires for us!

As God has thrown me into this uncharted territory (for me!) of women's ministry, as I get to know the hearts of more & more women, I hear the same resounding need & desire: Fellowship.

If Christ desires fellowship for us, what does the enemy desire? Loneliness. Sadly, there are so many lives that are consumed with loneliness. Single people, married people, people who can't have children, people who have 10 kids... Kelly says, "Loneliness is pervasive even for the people who supposedly have it all." Loneliness is a state in which the enemy would love to keep us. He knows that if he can convince us that we are all alone, he can get us to focus only on self, he can make us believe that there is no hope, but above all he can make us ineffective for the Kingdom. I know this first-hand. Even though I love fellowship, I have been in situations that made me lonely, as well as deceived. One situation wasn't that long ago. In case you didn't know, I love social media. I understand the problems/danger associated with it. But, as a girl who loves public relations, there are so many positives in using social media. When I was out of church with Jeb after he was born, I was so thankful for online sermons, podcasts, blogs, group Bible studies online, etc. But I will never forget the feeling I had the first time I was able to go to church after having him. Although I had not missed quiet times or Bible studying, while I was sitting on that pew, I was overcome with a sense of THIS is what was missing. Kelly says, "With the advent of social media and the Internet we're in danger of replacing fellowship for something that is merely a shadow of the real thing. We can download a sermon instead of sitting next to someone on a Sunday morning, we can email a prayer instead of physically enfolding another hand in our own, tweets and posts can be our manna instead of communing with God in His Word." While all of these new capabilities are great, they should be used in addition to assembling with other believers. While I was out with Jeb, I didn't know that I was missing anything on the inside. (I knew I missed my church family, but I didn't know that something was missing in my heart.) I was lonely & my joy wasn't complete.

Kelly described it best in the lesson:
"A good friend working through this study admitted how hard it can be for her to come out of her shell. 'It took all of my being every week to come to Bible study,' she said, 'but after every time I felt refueled and encouraged.' Sometimes it's hard for me to get out of my house for a dinner or coffee, much more a Bible study. As much as we say we long for community we often don't have it because we're afraid, have put up walls, or are holding grudges. This not only isolates our hearts, but others miss out on the uniqueness of what only we can bring."

Have y'all been there??? I know I have. I describe myself as half extrovert & half introvert. Now, I have not taken any tests to prove my guess, but I just know how I am. I LOVE people, I love spending time with them, I love getting to know them, I love meeting new people & making new friends. I definitely get energy from these interactions. On the other hand, I LOVE spending time alone. I love reading & writing & creating & just thinking. I get energized by spending time alone also. Life doesn't accommodate my weirdness & give me just the right amount of alone time, or just the right amount of people-time, so I'm usually left wanting whatever is lacking in life. (Anyone feel sorry for my husband, yet? Surprisingly, after 6 years of friendship & 11 years of dating - he gets me! He might "get" me more than I "get" me...) Because of this, I have to know myself & be careful to have the right balance. Sometimes this means saying no to doing something, other times this means making myself get out of the house & go to that Prayer Group meeting or dinner with friends.

In 1 John, he talks all about fellowship & ends it in verse 4 by saying that he wishes for us to have this fellowship to make our joy complete. Let me be obnoxious & emphasize: FELLOWSHIP HELPS MAKE OUR JOY COMPLETE! I mean, who doesn't want JOY???

So. If all of this is the case, why do we find we sometimes have to drag ourselves to Sunday School or a Bible Study or Prayer Group? Kelly says, "Many factors contribute, but one is we've stopped being real with one another." I would agree. Like I said earlier, I'm ok with a small amount of small-talk, but what I want out of a relationship is depth & to know the other person & to be known. When we first knew that we were moving to Petal, this is one of the things I prayed for. I needed people to do life with! It's so important for us all to get past our Sunday Morning smiles even though all the kids got spankings that morning & you destroyed your side mirror backing out of the garage (all hypothetical, of course). Once we can get rid of the thought that we have to be perfect & that everyone else at church must be, we can start doing life together. Doing life with real people is something to go to church for.

I love what Kelly said, "We forget that the Christian life is about our fellowship with a living Person, Jesus. When He's active in our lives & in the lives of others we'll have endless things to talk, dream, & pray about. We'll have fellowship, & fellowship will lead to joy. No fleeting pleasure compares to the joy that comes from fellowship - even fellowship in the midst of suffering."

My prayer for you, friends, is that you look to Christ to do whatever you need to do to be in fellowship with other believers so that your joy may be complete!

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