I want this blog to be the optimal forum for my thoughts, fears, hopes and aspirations for seminary, but also as the place where I can practice writing mini-sermons of sorts on various topics important to Christians at this given time.
As for today, I want to talk about the idea: STRENGTH IN NUMBERS. I saw this phrase several places this past weekend, and I thought this might be the perfect opportunity to explore what it might mean to find strength in numbers, and why exactly Christians find strength and comfort in fellowships.
A while back, Smith’s Christian Fellowship discussed the power of small groups and Bible studies in the lives of Smith’s Christians. I myself have been leading a small group, and as I stated in a previous blog post, I found them tremendously valuable, regardless of what stage they are in in their faith journey. Whether you are a beginning Christian, or someone who has gone to church their entire life, being in the presence of others who are like you – who believe as you do, who ascribe to the same practices and so on – not only strengthens one’s faith, but also encourages further growth long into the future. All over the Christian world, pastors of all denominations stress the importance of Church Bible studies, youth groups, women’s book groups, Christian yoga even, all to bring together Christians of all ages, stages and walks of the community. The important term at work in this circumstance is the word “Fellowship,” which is used countless times throughout the New Testament in reference to the works and mission of Jesus Christ. Perhaps this is where Churches gain their enthusiasm for such programs as those listed above.
God calls us into a fellowship with His Son, Jesus so that we can grow and be faithful. (1 Corinthians 1:9) Further, it seems appropriate that this type of fellowship Paul speaks of is about the sharing of faith, beliefs and the participation in the worship of God and His Son. This community, having centered itself around the teachings of Jesus Christ, participate in the fulfillment of God’s will through word and deed. Now what does that mean, you might ask? Good question. I’m wondering precisely the same thing myself. I suppose, the best way to approach such a query is to break the statement down to its most basic elements. My understanding of the importance of group studies and church communities are based on my personal experience. For example, it was not until I went to college did I participate in Bible studies, book groups and fellowships. Until I did, I knew little to nothing about how important they are to those that attend them. Firstly, they provide a safe forum for Christians to come together to discuss issues prevalent among their families, children, even themselves with others who feel the same on a group of basic subjects. In other words, fellowships provide a social outlet for Christians to come together and meet other Christians, with the understanding that they can bond based on the fact that Jesus Christ died for their sins, and that there is no God but our God.
Where does this take us as Christians then? Should we all go out and join a Christian group just because?? I think that Christians should join together for several reasons. Firstly, it is the best way to keep faith growing and to strengthen beliefs that have already taken hold. Secondly, it allows for more experienced Christians to encourage those who are taking baby steps at the very beginning of their journey. A fellowship is the place where both groups of people are fostered, where both feel at home, despite the difference in their spiritual maturity. Another great reason is it gives Christians a reason to come together to discuss pertinent issues facing each and every person.
What I wonder is why more Christians don’t discuss environmental issues, such as pollution? Why shouldn’t we? After all, God created this world for us to live on, not simply for us to destroy. And also, why don’t we talk more about AIDS in Africa? Bono’s doing it, and he’s a Christian…Or poverty, starvation, malnutrition in our country? Are these not issues that face fellow Christians, if not many of God’s Children worldwide? Fellowships provide the perfect place for Christians to get together to talk about the issues using language that each of us understands.
Finally, I want to ask the question one more time: why do Christians gather? What power exists there? I think all the power in the world is formed when Christians gather together. We have the power to make social and cultural change. It has been proven in previous elections that Christians have made a great impact in political elections, but I would love to see 10, 15, 50 years down the line that Christians have had an even more substantial social and cultural change than political. We have the power and the strength, given to us by God and Jesus, to negotiate social issues that our brothers and sisters are facing on a daily basis. Rather than pass them by in favor of another subject, let us harness the strength given to each of us into a collective and use it to help those around us who feel as though no one has their back. I know that my friends have my back in times of need, but also, I know that there are Christians out there that also have my back, simply because of the beliefs we share. I have found that kind of love, strength and compassion within a fellowship, both at Smith and within my church in Bronxville. I encourage each one of you to seek out the same…somewhere. There is a fellowship for each and every one of you out there, just waiting to be found.