Have you ever felt disappointed in the church you attend? Have you used the phrase “this church isn’t meeting my needs,” or, “I just don’t feel plugged in,” or “I’m struggling to connect”?
Feelings of loneliness and the inability to connect are not uncommon. But perhaps the problem isn’t a lack of community, but our perception of what community is supposed to look like. That’s the issue Jason Helopoulos tackles in his trending piece, Disillusionment with the Church.
Jason believes our problems in fellowship often come from a poor understanding of what connects us as Christians. “The foundation of our fellowship is not the feelings we have for one another, as important as they may be,” Jason writes. “Neither is the foundation of our fellowship based upon the fact that we live in the same geographic place, educate our children in the same way, hold similar political views, or are the same ethnicity. No. It is the gospel that is the foundation of our fellowship. Nothing else. It is truth rooted and founded in the person and work of Christ that lays the structure, creates the realm, and the reality of our union with one another.”
Crosswalk contributor Michael Milton echoes these thoughts in his article, The Joy of Fellowship in the Church. Like James, Michael sees the real joy of fellowship coming not from making connections with people who are similar to you, but rather serving others regardless of how they can meet your needs. He directly connections finding joy in Christian fellowship with serving others. “Do you see yourself ministering together with others? Do you see yourself with the primary identification as a servant to the rest of the body of Christ and the world? Do you see yourself in a relationship of love with those who were appointed over you and your life?”
So, what implications does this outlook have on building community and fostering fellowship with other Christians in and out of the church? According to Jason, it means not thinking of fellowship as what others can give us, but rather grounding it in what we have already received in Christ. When we really live in the reality that Christ can and does meet all of our needs, we can release our brothers and sisters in the church from the expectation to meet those needs. Even better, when we stop expecting others to fill the gaps in our lives that only Christ can, we can cheerfully, willingly serve others with joy in our hearts.
Have you ever felt bitter towards your church? Have you ever wondered why you’ve had a hard time connecting to other believers? Take a minute to do a heart check. Ask God to forgive you if you’ve made fellowship more about what others can do for you, rather than what you can do to serve others and God.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.