I watched the young man sitting across from me swirl around the last of his coffee in his cup. I had first “met” him a couple of weeks before through email, when we contacted me and said he wondered if I had to time to get some coffee with him. He wanted to talk about some of the blog posts that I had written about fellowship and church.
For the last few minutes, he had talked about himself and his wife and their newborn daughter. I learned about his two part time jobs, his extended family in another state, and the joys and struggles of parenthood. I had just said, “So, in your email, you said you wanted to talk about some of my blog posts about church and fellowship? What did you want to talk about?”
This is when he paused and looking into his coffee cup while thinking silently to himself. When he looked up, he began apologetically, “I don’t want you to think that I don’t like my church or my pastor. I think he’s a great preacher, and his sermons are very inspiring and scriptural. I agree with everything that he says.”
He stopped again and looked into his coffee cup. “But, everything related to church these days is beginning to remind me of my college classes. I’m getting tons of information that may or may not pertain to me and my family. I listen to the sermons or Bible study lessons, and I leave very excited about what I heard. Then when I get home to a screaming baby in the middle of the night after a long day at work, I don’t really care. Oh, I care about God, and I can tell that he is with me, but all the lessons and sermons just seem so…” He didn’t say the word that he was thinking.
I think he was surprised that I was smiling at him. “What you’re describing,” I said, “is the kind of teaching described in Scripture. You can call it ‘discipleship’ if you want. It’s not the kind of teaching that is presented from a lectern. It’s the kind of teaching that is offered in the middle of the night when someone is helping you with a screaming baby. What you’re looking for is the kind of teaching that is intimately connected with fellowship in the Holy Spirit – real relationships between people who share their lives with one another.”
“That’s why I emailed you,” he said. “You kept writing about sharing our lives in Christ with one another and how everything else related to the church comes from that. I don’t even know what that would look like.”
“I don’t either,” I answered the question he didn’t ask.
“What do you mean? You write about it all the time,” he countered.
“I write about sharing my life with my brothers and sisters in Christ, and how they share their lives with me. I write about what God is doing through us and in us together. But, I can’t tell you what that will look like for you. While there will be some general consistencies, the specifics will be different.”
“But,” I continued, “it begins with your relationship with God and with sharing that relationship with other people who God brings into your life by actually inviting them into your life – even in the middle of the night when your daughter is screaming.”