Setting aside times together like this has become more difficult over the years. Yet whatever the sacrifice of making it to one of those “whetstone” fellowships, I have always thanked God for the inflow of refreshment and strength it provided. Subsequent to my seminary years, nearly every major development in my personal growth—spiritually, theologically, and practically—traces back to the impact of these meetings with my brothers in Christ. By bearing one another’s burdens, we have lightened each one’s assigned load.

Our congregations need this kind of networking for nurture and accountability too. Some ministry to the church body can be done in a crowd, but that cannot take the place of the close, loving care that happens one-on-one or in small groups. We cannot interact with hundreds of people at once in the nitty-gritty demands of everyday life. Learning to follow Christ requires mentors and prayer partners, veteran saints to answer the tough questions that are all new to younger believers.

No matter how our roles change over the years in the body of believers, we are still most profoundly marked by our close relationships. The health of the flock depends on those close relationships. The Scriptures call us to live this way, and we who teach the Scriptures dare not neglect doing so ourselves. We are undershepherds, yet we are still sheep—weak, vulnerable, in need of God’s strength and care. He has chosen to use other believers to provide that care for us. We would be fools to go it alone. God knows us—He knows that we need each other.

 

Dr. Conley is the pastor of Hampton Park Baptist Church in Greenville, South Carolina.


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