Tag Archives: fellowship

Churches like using “F” words

A little known historical fact in church history involves the day a church came up with the ingenious marketing scheme to advertise events.  You have to use “F” words.  You know what I’m talking about:  food, fun and fellowship.  Let me set the scene for you…

No one knows for sure, it’s all just legend and oral tradition.  But I like to picture a small country church in Savannah, Georgia during a women’s ministry planning meeting sometime in the early part of the 20th century.  The ladies of First Church of Savannah were having trouble attracting people to attend their Bible study.  They always served such delicious snacks, desserts and sweet tea.  But still only a handful showed up.  Something had to be done.  They decided they needed more than just food.  They needed…something.

They brainstormed on the chalkboard of the Sunday School classroom for almost an hour before Sarah spoke up.

“Fun.  We have to offer fun.”

Mildred was confused.  “Fun?  What exactly does that mean?  What type of fun:  games, music, activities?”  Sarah replied, “I don’t know, just fun.  If we say it will be fun, maybe people will show up.”

Grace perked up from across the table.  “Yes, fun.  That’s what we need.  It doesn’t matter if we actually do anything as long as we advertise that it will be fun.”

Still, Mildred wasn’t fully convinced.  “What if people ask too many questions?  Such as ‘Where is the fun you promised?’ or ‘What type of activities are your idea of fun?’”

That’s when the magic happened.  Barbara had been quiet all night until she received inspiration from the Holy Spirit and shouted out “Fellowship!”

The room fell silent for a moment, then erupted in agreement.  Still, Mildred wanted to clarify things.

“What exactly is the difference,” Mildred asked, “between what we’ve been doing at our Bible studies and ‘fellowship?’”

The room of sweaty and tired women – wanting to go home and end this meeting – peered at Mildred with disdain.  “Fellowship will make it sound more spiritual than just hanging around,” Grace said.  Plus it’s alliteration.  Using alliteration in church is always awesome.”

So it began.  Ever since the meeting of the minds that fateful night, churches everywhere have followed suit by promising food, fun and fellowship at events.  Want to raise the bar of excitement for your Bible study where people sit in a circle and talk?  Offer food, fun and fellowship.  Is your Men’s prayer breakfast not drawing the numbers?  You’ve got the food, you’re missing the fun and fellowship.  Is the monthly budget meeting boring everyone to tears?  Get some donuts and B.Y.O.F.F! (Bring your own fun and fellowship).

Because it doesn’t matter what the event is.  It makes no difference if it actually is fun or any real fellowship occurs.  If it’s happening in a church you’re going to have food, fun and fellowship.  You may find some truly daring churches that add a fourth “F” word.  It could be faith, forgiveness, family; the sky is the limit…as long as it begins with the letter “F!”  (Except that word, get your mind out of the gutter).  ;)

Here are some examples of churches advertising the three F’s:

This church matched a cute graphic icon with each word:

FFF1

 

The men of First Baptist know how to do it.  A chef’s hat, meat, music, crosses, an angled closeup photo of a Bible so you know that this BBQ with live music will not be without scripture!

 

FFF2

 

This youth group took the concept and added Rock-em Sock-em robots.  Look closely:  they’ve got food but their fun is “crazy fun,” they offer games and a “Fellowship Night.”  Notice the hours of this fellowship “night” are 4pm-7pm but hey, it’s gonna be crazy fun so who cares?

 

FFF4

 

This ad left out the fellowship but included another “F” word, fire.  And of course the Bible.  Nothing goes with games, music and food over a  giant blazing bonfire like carrying around your Bible.

 

FFF5

 

Come for the food, fun and fellowship.  Stay for the lion taming act.

 

FFF6

 

This church just straight up went “F’ing” crazy:

 

FFF3

 

 


Summer Story Series: The church that time forgot


Each semester, Christian college students venture out into the world to find a church.  For students with a calling to be future pastors, they’re looking for a place to get mentored, something to add to the resume and maybe a networking connection.  Likewise, my friends and I visited various churches but nothing felt quite right until my friend Sara told us of a church where she was involved.  She started playing piano during the worship services at a little church called Westside Assembly of God.  When we asked her what the church is like, she responded “it’s full of old people, and I love it!”  She told us how she felt something special while approaching the building even before she entered.  Somehow, this felt like home.  She was met with open arms and before you know it, she was playing piano every Sunday. 

 Westside Assembly of God was not unlike many older churches in America that decline in attendance each year.  It wasn’t quite in the country but still felt out of the way.  It was a simple rectangular building with a parking lot that could fit about 15 cars.  The pastor and the congregation were all in their elder years and there were no children or teenagers.  A typical Sunday service had about 8-10 people.  That is, until the semester that a group of college kids showed up to get involved.  By the time I began attending, Sara and some others had started an outreach to the local community and a weekly children’s program as well as a youth service.  Our friend Matt became the worship leader and got a bunch of us to join the band.  Every Sunday, those same 8-10 old folks now were joined by college students, teens and children.  They sang along as Matt lead the congregation in modern rock praise and worship songs and old hymns set to the music of U2 and Radiohead.  But there was still the occasional special song by Sister Betsy.  One Sunday, she got up to sing and asked Sara if she knew “The Pentecostal ABC’s.”  Sara just shrugged, and then watched as Sister Betsy grabbed the mic and started singing… “A is for Atonement…B is for Bless-ed…C is for the cross…” and on it went up to “Z is for Zion.” 

 One weekend we were cleaning out some rooms in the back to make more room for the children’s ministry and we came across an old broken piano that was collecting dust.  We wanted to get rid of it but were told we couldn’t, because Sister Martha had donated it to the church.  When we asked “who is Sister Martha?” Sister Betsy replied “Oh she hasn’t come to this church for over 15 years.”  We all shrugged and laughed it off.  Some time later though, some of the guys did drag that old piano outside and smashed it with axes, Office Space style.

 Then there was Pastor Ted – a joyful old man, full of the Spirit and love for his people.  What was left of his hair was white as snow and he was portly and jolly like good ole’ Saint Nick.  I suppose he was a typical small country pastor.  He wasn’t trying to build a mega church and wasn’t interested in attending any conferences.  He would often unintentionally make us laugh by referring to “Semen Peter,” using analogies that were lost on us, or continuing to pace around with the microphone even after the cord popped out of the socket. 

 There were a lot of moments at Westside that made us laugh, but even more that made us smile at the warmth and pure love of that tiny community.  They embraced change:  new youth and children’s programs and a band of college kids leading worship on stage.  They opened their hearts and wallets to help purchase clothes and supplies for the poor children of the surrounding neighborhoods.  And as much as our presence brought new life and encouragement, they blessed and encouraged us in our efforts as well. 

 The church wasn’t flashy or modern, but it had heart and was full of the Spirit.  We could’ve competed with other students to be volunteers at the large or popular or cool churches, or try to build connections and network for future careers.  Instead, we served a small community church that most people would otherwise pass over and in the process, we probably learned more from that experience than any other internship or college course. 


Props: Genuine Friendships

“What about your friends will they stand their ground
Will they let you down yeah, yeah
What about your friends are they gonna be low down
Will they ever be around or will they turn their backs on you”

I love the movie “I Love You, Man” where Paul Rudd’s character has to find a man to become his friend and Best Man at his wedding.  His character mentions how it comes natural to seek out a girlfriend, but to find a male friend is difficult.  I didn’t have many friends growing up.  I was teased and bullied in elementary school, and in high school I never really fit in and was never invited to hang out.  More than a couple times, I was severely let down and betrayed by people I thought were my friends.  When I became a Christian, I finally meet some genuine friends, some of whom have been life long friends.  

While people in the Church are of course human and flawed like anyone, I have met some amazing people in the family of God.  Friends and mentors who were there to listen and not judge me, to allow me room to grow in my newfound spiritual life and to be encouraging even when I stumbled.  In the Church, you will find people that will listen, pray for you, and be there when you need them.  The Church takes a lot of criticism –including from the inside–but we can’t ignore the powerful and life-changing relationships developed in healthy church community.

It’s very difficult these days to find solid friends.  I know many people who feel the same way.  We are good at being social, at having a lot of Christian acquaintances, but close fellowship is not easy to come by.  I’ve been fortunate to find some great friends over the years, despite the times that friendships haven’t really developed.  I encourage you to look around, keep your heart and life open to the people around you, and to strive to be loving and encouraging to others.  I’ve always heard that the best way to make a good friend is to be a good one.  If we open up, reach out, and show others that we’re there for them to be a solid friend, we will start to see it reciprocated by the right people.

What does genuine friendship mean?  It means we don’t size people up and judge them based on externals.  I have a difficult time with this, because I’ll often judge people at first meeting them and think I won’t have much in common with them.  If I give them a chance, I can find out there’s more to them and we can find ways to connect.  Genuine friendship means picking up the phone at midnight and talking a friend through a struggle.  It means praying with someone on the spot, or helping be a distraction from a stressful day.  Genuine friendships are the kind where you don’t have to wonder IF you’re going to hang out with that person this week, but it’s just a matter of what you’ll be doing together.

Genuine friends don’t leave you out or make you feel unwelcome.  They get beyond the surface and learn to appreciate who you are, and encourage you in your goals and dreams.  They hold you accountable in your spiritual life, and knowing them improves your walk with God.  “As iron sharpens iron…”

I am truly thankful to God for bringing so many great friends into my life over the years.  Why don’t you take time this week to reach out to the people in your life who are loyal and always there for you, and drop them a thank you note and show them you appreciate them?

“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”

-Colossians 3:12-15


“I don’t need church, I can worship God on my own.”

You or someone you know has said that phrase at one time or another.  The trend in recent years is for people to view their spirituality as very individual.  People will spend “me time” on things like yoga, a cup of tea on the porch during sunset, or experiencing God in nature and call that their “church.”  It’s important to have personal time with God through prayer, meditation, reading and reflection, and it’s great to find unique ways to experience God in nature or whatever works for your personal worship time.  However, it’s also important to pursue God together in community.

Having church was God’s idea.  From the early beginnings and throughout the Bible, God’s people have worshiped together in community.  In the Old Testament, God spoke to a nation, not just an individual.  Worship happened at Mt. Sinai, and then in the Temple, and continued in the synagogues.  In the New Testament, Jesus called 12 disciples that mostly spent time with him in a group.  He didn’t go around meeting people one on one.  He fed the 5,000 and preached the Sermon on the Mount to a large group.  Jesus instructed his disciples that he was building His church, and in his last earthly prayer in Gethsemane, prayed that we would have unity and be as one.

Most of the New Testament letters are addressed to churches – groups of people.  And when Jesus spoke again in Revelation, He had a message for the churches, not just individuals.  Acts chapter 2 tells us that the new believers even met together every day.  The New Testament letters are full of instructions on how we are to relate to one another.  Hebrews 10:25 even specifically tells us not to stop meeting together with other believers.  We are to forgive, be patient, and realize that we are all different parts of the same body.

We’ve all experienced hurt, disillusionment or just boredom with church at one point or another.  Sometimes we need a break.  But it’s important to remember that church was God’s idea, that He wants us to continue to meet together, and that great things can happen through fellowship with other believers.

It’s not just going to church out of tradition, to be able to boast of large membership numbers or to get more in the collection plate.  Being together in community results in discipleship, accountability, generations passing on wisdom, counseling, praying for one another, serving alongside others to grow the church and reach the community, a powerful worship dynamic and so much more. 

If you’re holding out for the perfect church, you’ll never find it.  Wherever there are humans, there are flaws.  Sometimes, our flaws get magnified and there are abuses and offenses that happen.  But there are good churches out there with caring people, servant leaders and people who are at least trying to build solid community.  It may take some time, and some faith and patience on your part, but keep praying and trusting God to find the right church for you.

As we look in the mirror, we also have to realize our own sins and faults that contribute to a faulty church.  We can begin to examine ourselves and begin to change…but let’s change the Church from within, not abandon God’s vessel to bring light to the world.


Time to wake up (and love)

Church, we need to wake up.

The following verses have been really convicting me and making me look in the mirror.  And honestly, what I’m seeing in my spiritual mirror is falling short.  We have to do better.

Romans 13:11

“And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”

The verse begins “And do this” which is referencing the passage just before it, verses 8-10:

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.  The commandments… are summed up in this one command:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”

The writers of the New Testament believed that Jesus was going to return during their lifetime.  They believed they had little time to travel and spread the Gospel.  Yet, even in their urgency, they kept the focus on:

Notice that in urging the Church to wake up, the Bible tells us that the urgency is to love.  It doesn’t tell us to judge people or tell them they’re going to hell.  Not argue with other believers over who has the best doctrine.  Not bicker in debates over mega churches, mid-size churches or home churches.  The Bible doesn’t tell us that the hope of the world rests in our ability to put on a killer Sunday morning performance with the best sound & video (and fog machines).

It doesn’t tell us to protest pop culture, hate homosexuals or atheists, or complain when the government doesn’t promote our religion over others.  No, it tells us to love.  Jesus said people would know we are His followers by our love.

The hope for the world is the love of Jesus.

Church, we need to wake up and show the world who Jesus is.  We need to tell them why He died for us.  We need to show them how He’s changed us.

We have got to show them His love.



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