Fellowship happens face-to-face.

Mother and Daughter

We were made for community.

Society encourages us to be independent individuals, responsible for no-one but ourselves, and nothing but our own pleasure. Even in church, we have placed increasing emphasis on our individual experience of God. We base our theology on Jesus as a “personal Saviour”. We design the worship service to provide an inspiring experience for the individual worshipper. We place people in rows to take away the distraction of seeing each other and avoiding the pressure of having to contribute or interact. We turn our congregation into isolated individuals, comfortable and safe in non-participation.

Maturity is not found in independence, but in interdependence. We need each other. No man is an island. We are happiest when we are in strong and safe relationships, relying on one another and meeting each others’ needs. Jesus was very clear in his instructions to us to actively love one another. He never intended for us to only look after ourselves. God is relational and connected. He designed us to function best in community.

The popularity of social media tools such as Facebook reminds us that people want to be connected. The church has one key element for deep connection that the internet cannot provide. For a completely human experience of community, we still love to be physically present with other humans. The most powerful way to communicate is face to face. Only then are we able to pick up on and respond to the facial expressions, nuances, tone of voice, body language and gestures which turn words into communication. Our non-verbal skills convey emotion and empathy to each other. Direct eye-contact is a powerful way for us to connect and show respect and attention. However, it doesn’t even come close to a spirit of community when we place people in rows and only allow them to see the backs of each others’ heads. We need to circle up and see each other to unlock the potential of the church as a community.

The world is desperate for true community. God’s solution is the church. Jesus commands us to love one another – he says this is how people will know that we are his followers. But how can we get to know each other and minister to one another’s needs if we don’t get to talk to each other or even make eye contact?  How can we encourage each other, teach each other, and spur one another on to love and good deeds, if we can’t even see each other?

10 thoughts on “Fellowship happens face-to-face.

  1. Pingback: It’s hard to comfort from a distance | The Assembling of the Church

  2. Pingback: Fellowship happens face-to-face | A disciple's study

  3. Kathleen… You make some very good points here. Really on target.

    The apostle John opened 1 John by saying:

    1 That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— 2 the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us— 3 that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.

    We know little today about communion (fellowship) with the Father & Son, or with one another. Social chit-chat is what generally passes for “fellowship”, if we even get that far.

    We DO need each other, as you show, and we also need to be about:

    1. Knowing and serving the Lord’s agenda.

    2. Expressing, corporately, the life and nature of the Son.

    When those three things are in place… or even close… awesome things will happen.

  4. Hi Kathleen,

    I clicked the article title with interest over at ChurchLeaders.com, but was left at a loss in the end. You mention what the problem(s) are, but offer no solutions other than face-to-face contact and circling up, but that could mean many things. Perhaps you could expand a bit for a leader looking for some direction.

    Thanks! : )

    • Hi Tom, thanks for your question.

      Many of the concepts I discuss on this blog are not just about changing your “method”, but more about changing your “paradigm”. It would be quite easy for me to describe step-by-step what one of our weekly meetings looks like (and maybe I should do that in a future post), but it’s more about shifting your focus from teaching to learning, from control to trust, from monologue to dialogue, from performance to empowerment.

      I try to write my blogs in bite-size chunks. I am working on a book, for people like you who are interested in understanding the whole overview. Last year, I wrote a 12 part series titled “Tomorrow’s Church”, which might give you a better understanding of what “church in a circle” can look like. You can find it here; http://www.churchinacircle.com/2012/10/17/tomorrows-church-part-1-welcome-to-a-new-era/

      Blessings in your journey and leadership,

      – Kathleen

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