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Chapter 44 - Fellowship
Women have an easier time making relational connections without regard to denominational distinctives. Men may face greater difficulty in that other men often use denominational agreement as a litmus test to extend fellowship. Even when denominational agreement is established, 'fellowship' is often limited to talk about sports or politics at a church pot luck dinner.
There are many reasons for anemic fellowship even within churches today. The first casualty of prosperity is time. As a general rule, the more abundance a person accumulates, the less time he has available. One effect of limited time, is that one is inclined to only spend it where it will yield the greatest return on investment such as entertainment. One can set aside the hour (two with travel) for church once a week to fulfill religious obligation, but the rest of the available time is jealously guarded.
Another limitation on fellowship is that after having spent 12 formative years being indoctrinated and shaped by public school to fit into organizational systems, many Christians can only function in scripted roles. They often have diminished ability to take the initiative to inquire after others.
In an environment of general prosperity there are few ways in which Christians can minister to each otherís needs.In a materialistic society we tend to measure everything in terms of money. If someone has a problem it becomes a question of which organization has the funds to solve the problem. Some of this limited vision is a result of the world Satan has created which has also come to dominate church thinking.
The New Testament uses the phrase 'one another' 43 times. Specifically, the phrase 'love one another' is used 13 times. Considering the brutality and the health and economic hazards of life 2,000 years ago, it would seem that Christian ministry to each other would be vital. In contrast, today it often seems that even conversation with other Christians can be an annoyance.
Because of our materialistic orientation, we are often unaware of the other realms for Christians to function in. Even in the early church, there was an obliviousness to the realm of wisdom.
I speak to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you? no, not one that shall be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goeth to law with brother, and that before the unbelievers. Now therefore there is utterly a fault among you, because ye go to law one with another. Why do ye not rather take wrong? why do ye not rather suffer yourselves to be defrauded? - 1 Corinthians 6:5-7
What Paul describes is a church where wisdom is not recognized or valued. In addition, there was a lack of willingness to be disadvantaged.
The elevation of the material reflects a lack of faith in him who saved us and provides for us.
For who maketh thee to differ from another? and what hast thou that thou didst not receive? now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it? 1 Corinthians 4:7
If we can reduce the perception of the material back to its proper place in our lives, we become able to perceive that of real value, wisdom, love, and truth.
While a radical Christian may wish, upon entrance to a contemporary church, to rouse those slumbering in materialism to higher realms of perception, he needs to be aware that disturbing the complacent usually only brings animosity. Alternatively, seeking those who might also be breaking free from the constraints of conventionality is a better way to select those with whom deeper fellowship might be cultivated.
It is easy to measure and be impressed by worldly and material 'success'.
For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment; And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool: - James 2:2-3
Christian 'success' might be measured in the love and patience shown by a nursery worker, the solicitations of someone seeking to minister to the elderly, or the Sunday school teacher who shows wisdom and insight from God over scholastic achievement. While many such may have no time to develop additional friendships, the radical Christian can always supply a word of encouragement or even just recognition of the effort someone is putting forth.
The radical Christian is pursuing love (selflessness), wisdom, truth, and Christ-likeness. The degree to which he is successful will, sadly, make him less compatible with others claiming Christ. Modern denominations usually value compatibility (conformity) as a condition of fellowship. This works against Christian maturity as such growth often produces various stages of development in which significant differences can be observed.
The radical Christian sees differences as opportunities for or expressions of growth. Denominations often see differences as error which must be suppressed. In addition to the preparation the radical Christian should make for limited relationship opportunities, he should also prepare himself for aggressive encounters with those who take exception to his questioning or entertaining views that would be different from theirs.
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