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You don’t always find fellowship with the people you expected

Posted by on Jan 31, 2013 in discipleship, fellowship | 13 comments

You don’t always find fellowship with the people you expected

As I mentioned in my post “An Unexpected Journey with the Church,” I’m planning to get together with a group of believers in the Charlotte area in April to discuss how expectations often hinder us from finding fellowship in Christ with one another. Over the next few days, I’m planning to write about various expectations and how those expectations can affect our ability to find fellowship and share our lives with other brothers and sisters in Christ. I’ve already written about how we don’t always find fellowship in expected locations, and we don’t always build fellowship through expected activities.

But, what about people? Fellowship is all about people. So, how can expectations related to people negatively impact our ability to share our lives with one another and to find and build fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ?

Expectations affect our ability to find fellowship when we only expect to find fellowship with certain people or we expect to never find fellowship with other people.

What kind of people? Well, things like church organizational membership, doctrinal beliefs, denominational association, and also things like educational level, employment status, financial rank, race and ethnicity, age, living conditions, etc. We can (even subconsciously) assume that some of those characteristics would limit (or even increase) our ability to find fellowship with someone (or some group).

Another limitation related to people is the time that we have to spend with them. While spending much time with someone is always beneficial toward fellowship, we should not discount our ability to find fellowship with someone because we only have a short amount of time to spend with them.

With some people, we expect to find fellowship, and when we don’t those expectations negatively affect our ability to find fellowship with others. With other people, we do not expect to find fellowship, and – obviously – those expectations negatively affect our ability to find fellowship with them – but also with other people.

So, what’s the answer? Well, being ready to share our live with anyone. Yes, that means that as we “approach” people for fellowship, many of those people will reject us. But, it’s not up to us to decide who will and who will not reject us. That’s between those people and God.

And, yes, I know that many people – many of my readers – have been hurt by people because of rejection and betrayal. Again, you cannot project that hurt onto other people and assume that others will treat you the same way. That’s also between those people and God.

Instead, it should be our goal to share our lives with anyone who God brings across our path – if they’re willing to accept that fellowship, of course.

Have you ever found fellowship with an unexpected person or group of people.

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Series on Expectations and Fellowship

  1. Introduction – “An Unexpected Journey with the Church”
  2. Expectations concerning location
  3. Expectations concerning activities
  4. Expectations concerning people
  5. Concluding (and continuing) thoughts

13 Comments

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  1. 1-31-2013

    In the last year, I’ve found a great deal of fellowship with folks with whom I sometimes disagree in political or theological matters. The community we meet with is is an eclectic bunch of characters, yet we are able to share our lives with one another. The last community we were a part of didn’t work out, so we were wary when we began to gather with this new one. I think the difference with the group now is that the fellowship is centered on Jesus and the Gospel.

  2. 1-31-2013

    Exactly!

    and yes!

    I would even go so far to say that every assumption or expectation I have made in the past 4 years about who will say yes to fellowship, who will say no thanks, how that fellowship will happen, when it will happen & what it looks like when it does has been wrong wrong wrong :)

    I think I’m *starting* to get the lesson, God – sorry I’m such a slow learner.

  3. 1-31-2013

    Fred,

    From my experience, I’ll bet you’ve learned more from these people with whom you disagree.

    Randi,

    As long as we’re learners. :)

    -Alan

  4. 1-31-2013

    I agree that many of us hang back from fellowhip because of fear of rejection, often based on past experience. Others fume with anger because of rejection and project that on to others. Jesus loved freely and we should attempt to do the same. When we don’t, we forfeit opportunties to get to know some amazing people and develop lasting friendships.

  5. 2-1-2013

    I was reading Andrew Murray’s Absolute Surrender tonight and thought of this post. “the children of God, wherever they come together, to whatever church or mission or society they belong, must love each other intensely, or the Spirit of God cannot do His work. We talk about grieving the Spirit of God by worldliness and ritualism and formality and error and indifference. But, I tell you, the one thing above everything that grieves God’s Spirit is this lack of love.”

  6. 2-1-2013

    Andrew pointed out earlier in his text that love is the fruit of the Spirit, not the result of likability or compatibility of people in our lives. That frees us to love people we couldn’t otherwise, wouldn’t otherwise.

  7. 2-1-2013

    Alan,

    I just blogged something very relevant to this just this week.

  8. 2-1-2013

    Reasons/guesses why people I think are ripe for fellowship…with me…seem to politely turn away:
    1. I’m just part of their usual Sunday outreach…a project…and only a minor one with lots of bigger fish to fry or lots of other responsibilities.
    2. They don’t really want to take the trouble to go any further.
    3. They have all the friends and family they need.
    4. I haven’t qualified for the inner circle.
    5. I let slip that I am needy…for intelligent conversation…for someone to listen to me.
    6. I, myself, am working under the 5 earlier points and they can sense it!

  9. 2-2-2013

    Having expectations sets a precedence for failure and disappointment. Particularly in people. When you create a level of expectation of another it may or may not be something they are capable of achieving. If its not, then in your eyes, they failed and you are now disappointed. This is highly detrimental as often we react to the disappointment we are feeling often leaving the other confused as most of the time the expectation is established internally and they other party is unaware. While you should have standards for yourself, expectations are often unrealistic, unspoken , and unhealthy. I know this is out of context from your message but it still can still relate as the concept is the same.

  10. 2-3-2013

    Jean,

    It is very interesting when you look at Jesus’ examples, isn’t it? He would be rejected at one moment, then turn around and offer himself to the next person he met.

    Art,

    Thanks for the quote. I also love the fact that we are now free to love by the Spirit. That puts things in a completely different perspective.

    Steve,

    Thanks for you post – “A Strange Fellowship.”

    Tom,

    That’s a great list. I think most people would agree with you, until you get to #6… but that’s the point, isn’t it?

    Kim,

    Yes, “expectations are often unrealistic, unspoken , and unhealthy.” So, what about the good kinds of expectations, and how do we tell the difference?

    -Alan

  11. 3-26-2013

    The question “Have you ever found fellowship with an unexpected person or group of people?” brings some tender tears to my eyes, Alan. YES, many times in many places. But one time and place came to mind “unexpectedly” when I considered that question. I had been wrapping up a 9-month Disciple Bible Study for Disciple Bible Outreach Ministries in the Iredell County Correctional Facility, a medium security “gun-camp”. As North Carolina was going through a process of closing down and consolidating a number of prisons, the group of men I was studying with on Wednesday nights dwindled from 25 to only four. They were being moved, one by one, in twos, threes and fours to other camps. Each week, what had been growing into a unique expression of the body of Christ was heartrendingly diminished. Each week, the inmates were responsible for their daily reading preparing for the next week’s session in their Disciple manuals. As we read through 75% of the Old Testament together and 90% of the New Testament, we had been discussing, praying, questioning, finding answers and making our peace with it when the answers seemed to be inadequate. Men behind bars often understand “consequences” and “grace” far better than those who sit in the pew for an hour on Sunday and take all the rest for granted. Each Wednesday night, the prison walls melted away, and in that barren, institutional “classroom” where the correction officers could peer in through a wire-glass window, we became a band of brothers and their sister. The last three sessions we were down to the “final four”, Daniel, Robbie, Curtis and Darrell…and “sister Leah”. On the final night, we tearfully shared communion together, and I knew beyond the shadow of a doubt that the Lord had allowed the four most mature-in-Christ inmates in my group to remain there in that camp for that last evening. These were the ones I can feel sure exhorted other inmates in the camps they eventually moved to “Enroll in that Disciple study”, which is available through DBOM in almost all the NC correctional facilities, including the Juvenile facilities. These were the men who would “minister” Christ wherever they went in the “system” and after they were released. All but one, who is a “lifer” and will never leave prison, but the light of Christ in his face and shining from his heart is a memory I will cherish into eternity when I greet Him, forgiven and free. Yes, I have found the church in unexpected places. One of them was a prison camp where a 6’6″ part-time Baptist preacher working as a full-time corrections officer would let me in on Wednesday nights, walk me past a tower manned by men with rifles, thank me with tears in his eyes “for all you do for the men here”, and into that classroom where there was no difference at all between “inmate” and “free”. I didn’t do anything for the men…Jesus was in that prison daily and, one night a week, He let me be there with Him. I always walked back feeling like someone had done something for ME. When I said “yes” to the opportunity to do prison ministry, I never “expected” to find the church “inside the walls” like that. It changed me. I will never “write off” someone Jesus died for…even if something in his past has cost him his “freedom” for this lifetime.

  12. 3-26-2013

    Leah,
    Thank you for sharing that – that is SO beautiful!! I am praising Jesus with you for His work through you and through those men. That’s so awesome!

  13. 3-28-2013

    Leah,

    I agree with Randi. Thank you for sharing that story!

    -Alan