But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.

Acts 1:8

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View October 2008 Issue >>
 

Hurt by Fake Fellowship

 

Scene one: You decide to visit a new church, as your existing church doesn’t feel like home. So, after guessing what time the service starts (naturally the church doesn’t have an answering machine telling you service times, and there are no cellphone numbers posted on the website for you to contact over the weekend), you discover you are 30 minutes early. After trying to bide some time in the car, you enter the church looking for a welcoming face – any face – to make eye contact with. Hmm…you could just as well be Casper the friendly ghost! You take a seat, exchanging brief (fake) smiles with the people around you, wishing they would take a quick break from their animated conversations to just say hello. After the service ends, you muster up the courage to stand at the visitor’s table, hoping someone, (anyone!) will speak to you for more than one minute...Sadly, it doesn’t happen and you leave that church feeling lonelier than ever before, never to return.

 

Shallow relationships

Scene two: You are a small group leader in your church, a valued contributor to the Body of Christ and an all round ‘nice person’. Yet, (strangely?) your leaders never socialise with you outside of ‘church functions’ and you know for a fact that even after five years of serving with them, they still don’t know your surname! No matter how many times you invite them for coffee or try to build deeper friendships, all you seem to get is a barrage of (fake) excuses. You have reached your wits end and are now contemplating joining a ‘home church’...

 

Unreliable friends

Scene three: You love the Lord, you love your church, you have fantastic Christian friends and overall, life is great. Then, one night you need help – you’re on the N2 with a burst tyre. You scroll through your phone calling your brothers and sisters in Christ, but none of them can assist. All are too busy – some even busy praying! Next month, you need a lift to the airport. Again, not one single Christian can help - they are apologetic of course - but at the end of the day, you end up phoning that one unsaved friend that you know ALWAYS helps you out and NEVER makes excuses, realising that (tragically) your Christian friends are never there for you bar Sunday morning services. You sit at home alone wondering why?

 

Deeply-rooted hurt

Scene four: You plan a birthday dinner, seeing it as a fantastic opportunity for your unsaved friends to mingle with ‘normal’ Christians. You invite your friends and cell group members weeks in advance, eagerly anticipating a successful event. The day of your celebration approaches, and even though you are supposed to be excited, the numerous calls and sms’ flooding in are dampening the mood.

Excuses like, “I have too much work to do” (on a Saturday night?) and “We just feel that we need to spend quality time at home together” (what about spending that time together the night before and instead using this event to bless your friend and reach out to the unsaved?) fail to bring any comfort. Eventually you turn your cellphone off, as you cannot bear the disappointment any longer. Once again, all your Christian friends have let you down when you needed them most. Anger and hurt starts to grow in your heart and you no longer want to attend that cell group...any wonder why?

Do these stories sound like the exaggerated ramblings of a bitter Christian with rejection issues? No - these are just a few of the weekly experiences of hundreds of thousands of Christians worldwide. Heartbreaking, isn’t it?

Necessary forgiveness

As a Christian of 15 years, having visited and attended many churches over the years, I too have been a victim of ‘fake fellowship’ and felt the devastating consequences it can have on people.

 Maybe you are reading this article, nodding along and mulling over your own experiences. Or perhaps you can’t identify with these stories and are tempted to turn the page. Please read on and allow the Holy Spirit to show you instances when you have either been hurt (and need to release that hurt and forgive) or moments when you have hurt others (possibly unknowingly) by making false promises and exuding fake behaviour.

 

Why all the pretence?

One of the contributing factors towards fake fellowship is simply, the pace of life. Our busy schedules (seem to) simply rule out deep and meaningful friendships. Influential Christian publisher, Steve Strang (of New Man Magazine and the Strang Publishing group) has this to say: “You work 50 to 60-hour weeks. On weekends, you shuttle the kids to their sports practices and playdates. On Saturday nights, if you’re lucky, you get a babysitter so that you and your significant other can engage in that ritual meant to keep things zesty - ‘date night’- but at times you long for another type of date. Perhaps, during those rare moments you have for reflection, when your fingers are not working your BlackBerry as you sit in traffic, you think about how your social life has changed (or ­evaporated) since you were a fun-loving unsaved varsity student. Fading friendships among women and men in particular, is a huge problem that I believe requires serious attention. When it comes to living the Christian life, lone rangers are sitting ducks. I believe most men want close friends in spite of the fact that, as a group, men tend to process things more individually than women might do. Even though much of a man’s life is spent projecting a confident, ‘handle-whatever-comes’   image, deep down he doesn’t like being an island.” 

 

No man is an island

The problem is that many of us don’t know how to be vulnerable, and even if we did, we wouldn’t want to be! Vulnerability involves real risk. I’m sure most men would rather hang glide, bungee jump, shoot whitewater rapids or skydive before they would open up with somebody about their real life struggles.

Men need to be discipled by other men who will commit to spend more time with them, hear their problems, pray with them, stick with them through thick and thin and encourage them to grow and become new men in Christ, fulfilling their God-given destinies.

Most men haven’t been trained to be friends with others. And the devil tries to exploit men by keeping them in a type of solitary confinement. One of the deep needs in a man’s life is masculine companionship.Gordon MacDonald puts it this way: “We were built for intimacy, this linkage of souls, but most of us men rarely experience it. And its scarcity breeds loneliness (I don’t really know anyone) and fuels remoteness (No one really knows me).”

Loving God; loving others

It is not only men who suffer from isolation and loneliness. Women and youth of all ages experience it too. Competition and a spirit of comparison is rife within the church, with Christians often subtly excluding those whom they feel intimidated by. Many times I have heard people say, “Oh we didn’t invite you because we knew you would be busy”, or “Um, sorry I couldn’t make your dinner party...I forgot about some stuff I had to do, and my phone was dead and blah blah blah...”

Unfortunately, dear brothers and sisters in Christ, excuses like these are not good enough. If we are to model Jesus to the world, it starts with us modelling Jesus to one another. Jesus is the epitome of love, honesty, integrity and respect. How are we respecting people if we easily ‘ditch’ them when something better comes along, or we don’t feel like meeting new people and so, cancel at the last minute?

 

Fellowship is costly

Hundreds of thousands of precious people are leaving our churches because they are hurt. Sometimes, the hurt is self-inflicted, but most times, that hurt is due to fake fellowship. Hypocrisy is the silent sin that eats away at our witness. If we are to truly see revival in our homes, our communities and our country, it starts with people humbling themselves before God and loving others as Christ has loved us. (1 John 4:18-20)

True, life-changing fellowship is costly. It will cost us our time, our efforts, often our pride (as we fellowship with people we would not normally) and it will cost us our hearts. Where your treasure is, is where your heart is. When we die, we can’t take anything with us, but the souls we led to Jesus and the lives we touched with God’s love. Let us not be fooled, - a man reaps what he sows (Gal) - if you want true fellowship, start sowing it!

 

Spirit-led fellowship

As churches get bigger, the need for order in the services takes a higher priority.  Gone is the loving shepherd who knows the name of every person in the church.  Now we have executives who command a staff of professionals delivering five services each Sunday. While these services are entertaining and often educational, they bear no resemblance to the gathering of Christians in the New Testament. In those days (as it should be today) Christians prayed together, met regularly in each other’s homes and served one another in love. Remember it shouldn’t be a ‘duty’, but rather joy.

 

Genuinely genuine

Though it is normal and unavoidable to develop small groups of preferred friends, cliques must be avoided at all costs. Challenge yourself to meet one new person every week at church - and don’t just stop there - get to know this person outside of the church building and please, do NOT stop being their friend should they decide to leave your church or should they tragically fall into sin and backslide. Dumping people who don’t attend your church programmes is the WORST kind of fake fellowship there is! Genuine Christian fellowship is...genuine. It is voluntary in every respect.  It has real problems and real pain with real friends showing real love through real prayer and real help. Sincere Christian fellowship can’t happen a couple hours a week...it’s a full-time commitment. Through the Grace of God, the love of Jesus and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, let us reinstate sincere Christian fellowship today!.

 

Solutions for true fellowship

• Search your heart and ask God for forgiveness  if you have been fake. Forgive those who  have hurt you with their  
   false friendships.

• (Gently) challenge your minister to do a teaching on genuine fellowship and Christian love. It is imperative that we
   as the Body of Christ, reflect true Godly love for one another. Non-believers will spot hypocrisy from a mile away
   and believers will leave our churches and even the faith due to insincere, unreliable friendships.

• Speak to your pastor about starting a social gathering ‘club’ that will encourage people to fellowship in a friendly
   and inclusive environment.

• Share this article with others and model a lifestyle of genuine friendship. Speak out (in love) against insincere
   behaviour.

• Pray and seek God.

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