Last week we noted that our midweek meeting is steadily growing – this is a good thing. It is sensible to ask how we might ensure that they remain central in binding together our fellowship as a congregation, without becoming “just another meeting”. To continue to benefit our fellowship, we saw that we must come prayerfully, depending on God, and sacrificially, looking to bless others.
The third thing that will help our fellowship is remembering the example of Jesus. He did have the 12 apostles as well as the group of women who followed him, and they were close. We can think of that as a sort of little “congregation”. But within that he also had a closer bond with Peter, James and John. There are some important lessons in that for how we think about our fellowship as a congregation.
- Small groups that are closer within a fellowship are not bad things. Jesus’ special friendship with these three disciples was in no way sinful or wrong.
- Small groups within the congregation need to be about support and encouragement. Mark 14:34 tells us how Jesus took Peter, James and John to be near him while he prayed in Gethsemane. He longed for their support. This is in stark contrast with Mark 10:35ff where James and John assumed they enjoyed special status within the fellowship; that their closer friendship with Jesus entitled them to special treatment. Jesus reminds this small group that “whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.” Small groups are much more about support and encouragement.
- It’s important to note that Jesus never allowed the small group of friends to take priority over the needs of the larger group of disciples. The compassion of Jesus seen in Mark 6:34 show us that he placed the needs of the larger group first, even when he longed for some time apart.
Small fellowships can be very helpful in bringing people on in discipleship, and they can be a great place for mutual support and encouragement. But that group is always in addition to the wider congregation. Membership in the church has many privileges, but one of the responsibilities of membership is to pray together with the congregation. That’s why we are taking time to specifically encourage all of our members to try to make a commitment to the monthly prayer meeting held the first Wednesday each month. Even if this is the only Wednesday you can come, the rewards and benefit will be great.