Monthly Archives: September 2013

Youth Ministry: What’s the Point? 4 (Fellowship)

            I grew up in a church setting in which “fellowships” took place regularly.  Potlucks, Thanksgiving dinners, finger food events…all labeled “fellowship.”  So when the topic of church fellowship came up, at least growing up I thought our church had mastered the God-given purpose of fellowship.  I was slightly overwhelmed when I began to understand real Christian fellowship as found in Scripture.  Not that potlucks and finger food events, fully equipped with a plethora of “blank salad sandwiches” are bad things.  But independent of intentional purpose these “fellowships” are only “get-togethers.” 


            God-centered fellowship involves more than just food and people.  In Baptist churches anything can turn into a fellowship when these two ingredients are present.  But real fellowship is much deeper.  To have Christian fellowship means that there is a bond of common purpose and devotion that binds Christians to one another and to Christ Jesus (adapted from the Holman Bible Dictionary).  For the early Christians, fellowship did not take place only around a dinner table.  Nor did it take place when a group of people united around a common, secondary interest.  Fellowship existed when believers identified with each other, having the commonality of salvation in Jesus Christ and possessing a passion to live for Him in communion with other Christ-followers.  In Acts 2 we catch a glimpse of genuine Christian fellowship among believers during the infancy of the New Testament Church:


41 So those who accepted his message were baptized, and that day about 3,000 people were added to them. 42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.

43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need. 46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.  Acts 2:41—47


On the day of Pentecost many people trusted Jesus Christ for salvation and were immediately baptized.  It is important to note that baptism was an immediate and first act of obedience of brand new Christians who had trusted Jesus Christ as the Lord of their lives.  Baptism acted as a visible testimony of salvation and marking grounds for bringing believers into a common bond and fellowship with one another.


Upon salvation and baptism these believers united with one another in a bond of common purpose and devotion to Christ.  This was manifested through joining together for teaching, the breaking of break, and prayer.  This group of believers had a fear of the God who was working miraculously among them.  They met the physical needs of one another.  They continually met together and praised God joyfully together.  And they must have proclaimed the gospel, for every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.


Fellowship is more than potlucks and get-togethers.  In youth ministry it is more than meals, open gyms, lock-ins, and hangout time.  Though each of these can be avenues through which fellowship takes place, they are not the substance of fellowship.  Rather, fellowship in youth ministry is when Christian students unite together in the common bond of Christ Jesus.  In the church I serve we call our Senior High weekly worship service, “Converge,” which means, “to come together from different directions.”  That is, many students come together, despite their differences and from different places, and become one in the common bond of Christ.


Fellowship in youth ministry is uniting students together for the purposes of God and in devotion to Him.  This requires intentionality.  It requires making sure that programs, events, and activities are more than hollow time together.  It requires learning together, worshipping together, praying together, communion together through meals, and doing life together—even outside the walls of the church.  There is no single template that fits every church; fellowship will look significantly different in youth ministry settings of all shapes and sizes. 


But the intent of fellowship is certain—to rally together in the name of Jesus Christ, for His purposes and in devotion to Him.


“Youth Ministry—What’s the Point? 4 (Fellowship)” is part 4 of forthcoming seven part series written by John Howard, Minister to Students at First Baptist Church, O’Fallon Illinois.

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Christ Follower-You WILL Be Misunderstood

“No, what I meant to say was…”  Have you ever found yourself making a similar explanation?  The older I get the more I find myself misunderstanding others and vice versa.  To misunderstand is simply a failure to understand something correctly.    


Many individuals in Scripture were misunderstood.  Moses was misunderstood.  Not long after the miraculous Exodus from Egypt, the Jews misunderstood what had happened and what lie ahead: “But the people thirsted there for water and grumbled against Moses. They said, “Why did you ever bring us out of Egypt to kill us and our children and our livestock with thirst.” (Exodus 17:3)  When young David delivered supplies to the battlefield just before he defeated Goliath, his brothers misunderstood him: “David’s oldest brother Eliab listened as he spoke to the men, and became angry with him.  “Who did you leave those few sheep with in the wilderness?  I know your arrogance and your evil heart—you came down to see the battle!”” (1 Samuel 17:28)  Daniel’s prayer revealed that the Jews misunderstood the prophets (and their message) given them by God: “We have not listened to Your servants the prophets, who spoke in Your name to our kings, leaders, fathers, and all the people of the land.” (Daniel 9:6)  The Apostle Paul was misunderstood.  In Antioch, the place from where Paul and his companions set out on their first missionary journey, the people heard the gospel message, yet chose to misunderstand and reject it.  Paul and Barnabas were persecuted and expelled from the district (Acts 13).  Even the Lord Jesus Christ was misunderstood: the folks in his own hometown of Nazareth were offended and disbelieved His message and mission (Matthew 13:54—58).


Yet none of them caved…none of them ceased to carry on the mission and message of God despite the misunderstanding, disbelief, harassment, and persecution of others.


Christ follower…pastor…minister…leader…volunteer…Christian: You too WILL be misunderstood.  Jesus Himself was misunderstood.  Those sent by the will of God with a message and mission have been misunderstood throughout history.  And now more than ever, those who labor according to the God given message of salvation and mission to evangelize and disciple a lost and dying world will be misunderstood—both outside AND inside the church.


Whether it is your vision, purpose, message, mission, leadership, processes, programs, events, activities, and beyond…you WILL be misunderstood.  In your pursuit of the Lord and labor for His Kingdom many will fail to correctly understand what you do and why you do.  Those who misunderstand will likely question you, oppose you, interfere with you, and discourage you.  But at the end of the day you live, love, and labor for the Lord…let human misunderstanding be no detriment to your faithfulness unto God Almighty.


Peter and John unashamedly went about declaring the message and mission of God immediately after the ascension of Jesus Christ.  The religious authorities misunderstood and attempted to silence them, yet they would not be derailed: “But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it’s right in the sight of God for us to listen to you rather than to God, you decide; for we are unable to stop speaking about what we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:19—20)


Servant, in faith and boldness, empowered by the Holy Spirit, carry out the message and mission God has entrusted you with, despite the misunderstanding of others. 

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