It wasn't that long ago that the church was open a lot. Several days a week. In the mornings. In the evenings. Some afternoons. There was almost always something going on at the church. And when fellowship was an emphasis in the church, we were there for it.
All of it.
Because it was an opportunity to see our friends. To hang out with our brothers and sisters. To talk with one another. To know and to be known. To love and to be loved.
Some churches have tried, in recent years, to start some of these programs back up. They have tried to offer midweek classes, Sunday night worship, game nights, fellowship meals, service opportunities. They are led by folks who remember the days when we were there for it. When we spent not just our Sunday mornings, but our entire week together. As a body.
And many of these folks are saddened to realize that these days, only a handful of persons show up. Pastors and church staff start to panic. "We are a church full of the uncommitted," they think. Our people just really aren't that interested in Jesus.
But that's not in at all.
If your church members don't have real, meaningful fellowship with each other, there's no incentive for them to come and do your church thing. Whatever you're trying to do at the church, it feels like just one more thing on an already-busy calendar. And if it's the kind of thing they're actually interested in and might like doing, they are more likely to set it up themselves with the persons they already have relationships with.
Maybe you set up a game night, and you have a couple in your church who loves to play cards. Seems like a match made in heaven, right? But if that couple doesn't have meaningful fellowship with anyone at the church, they are more likely to convince themselves they won't know anyone there and so probably won't have a good time, so they set up a game night with the friends outside of church that they usually play cards with.
Want to plan a worship night? Great, but most families can turn on a worship station at home and sing together. What is the church offering besides worship?
I know what you're thinking - they can't form those meaningful relationships if they won't come to events, but that's backward. That's the whole problem. Fellowship is not something the church is supposed to do on the side, as an extracurricular activity. It's supposed to be the heartbeat of the church. And if you're not getting it right in your core meeting together - on Sunday mornings - why should your people believe you'll get it right some other time?
You're asking a bunch of empty pitchers to show up and telling them they can be filled up, but they walk away empty every time they're already with you, so why should they trust you'll fill them up this time?
Someone shouldn't have to come to our church on Thursday night to develop meaningful fellowship with our body. They should be getting that on Sunday mornings. And if they're not, we're doing it wrong. Period.
And again, I know what you're thinking...(to be continued next week)