~ Dana Smith, Wellspring Group’s Women’s Equipping Coordinator.
There’s strength in Fellowship.
At the end of numerous Battle for Men’s Hearts I often share one of my favorite quotes from the Movie Gladiator. Maximus is preparing his band of gladiators to go into the great arena against what will surely be insurmountable odds. Not knowing what they will face he shares a compelling vision:
“Whatever comes out of these gates, we’ve got a better chance of survival if we work together.
Do you understand? If we stay together we survive.”
Maximus clarified what was at stake for these men: survival. As these men entered the arena, they worked together, stayed together, and not only survived, but they won the battle.
In the early church believers were faced with numerous battles. In the book of Hebrews Christians were being tempted to fall away, to pull back, to not finish the race set before them. So not unlike Maximus, the writer seeks to inspire them to overcome with these words:
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching. – Hebrews 10:24-25
The Fellowship spurs you on.
In the midst of the challenges and disappointments of life and relationships, it is easy to give up meeting together – connecting with fellow believers to spur them on – to challenge each other’s distortions and call out our glory so that we may love one another well and actually reveal the heart of God in this world. Being close enough, courageous enough to challenge each other to speak the truth in love is hard and often risky. So why do it? We do it so that we may give courage to one another to never give up – to keep going, to finish well.
At age 65 my eye is on the finish line and I long to finish well. The more I see the day of my departure nearing or the day of his appearing coming closer, I long to say with Paul –
For I am already being poured out like a drink offering, and the time for my departure is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. – II Tim 4:6-8
Whenever I read those words I experience the deep desires to come through, to hear well done, to experience the honor and glory of the crown of righteousness. The older I get the more I realize that I need help to come through, I need my brothers and sisters to “spur me on” to play the part only I can play, to “give me courage” to embrace the cross, to know that I am his beloved, to trust God to come through in me and through me in the battles of life and ministry.
Do not forsake the Fellowship.
As you move into summer break with vacations, extra activities with family and friends, and the expectations of a more relaxed and less scheduled few months, it can be difficult to maintain consistent fellowship. But remember Evil is hunting you and there is a Fellowship that desires to protect you and propel you into your part of the story. Your story includes this summer!
So as you prepare, think about and plan for how you will continue to connect with God, his word, and your brothers and sisters. Remember the saints in the book of Hebrews who want to give you courage to stay the course all the way to the end.
Recognizing the challenges summer brings to small groups, we structure the Team Equipping process, our follow through process for teams coming out of a retreat, to end by the beginning of summer. But that doesn’t mean that the need to meet together for prayer, sharing and encouragement should end. Technology affords us many ways to stay connected – phone calls, video calls, group texts, and group chats are just a few options when meeting in person isn’t possible.
- Be intentional about getting together with friends you can connect with on a deeper level. Schedule times for fellowship well in advance, then put them on your calendar and consider them a priority. If you are part of a team wrapping up a Team Equipping module, take a planned one month break, but before you do schedule 2-3 meetings to get together and re-connect during the summer. You need it and they need it (even though you might not realize it now).
- Consider ways to get together that fit with the natural flow of the summer (i.e. cookouts with the whole family invited).
- Agree to and follow through with brief personal updates by e-mail every week or two. That way you are aware if a member of your team is struggling.
- Take a more relaxed approach to meeting in the summer. Instead of planning a new study that requires homework, plan to get together to share, engage and pray for one another. No prep needed. Commit to continued time in the Word, adding in new methods such as podcasts while relaxing at the beach or pool, new worship CD’s or meditating on single scripture passages.
Wellspring Group has several events planned for this fall. How might God be leading you to participate and how might you use this summer to move toward that? You can see a list of events as well as many other opportunities and resources for alumni at www.wellspringgroup.org.
One Step Further:
- What is your plan for staying connected to God and his Scriptures this summer?
- What is your plan for deepening relationships with friends and family? Go ahead and schedule specific dates on your calendar.
- Who needs you to be a part of their Fellowship in a way that only you can?