Scripture Reference:  1 Corinthians 1:4

I thank my God always on your behalf, for the grace of God which is given you by Jesus Christ

Introduction:

Greetings and welcome to message two in our “Authentic Fellowship” series.  I hope that you guys enjoyed the first one, and weren’t too offended by it.  I don’t want to be offensive to you guys, but I would rather not offend God more.  I’m responsible to write what I sense the Holy Spirit wanting me to write, and some times there’s going to be things said that are going to come off really strong.

It’s just like church.  Some times our pastors are going to preach things that we love to hear about like we’re the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus and things like that.  Other times our pastors are going to preach about sin or things that are going to challenge us and confront us…and that’s what this kind of series is going to be…one to challenge and confront us about how we view fellowship.

So, let’s see what kind of message we’re going to get from the Lord today…Amen!?!

Today’s Message: “The Center of Fellowship”

Generally I think the church does a pretty good job with most areas they are responsible for.  I believe most churches that aren’t on television are probably pretty good, strong, solid Bible believing, Bible preaching, and Bible living churches…and it transforms into their congregations.  I would hope that most churches are good about establishing an atmosphere of worship where the Spirit of the Lord is free to do what He wants.

I would love to believe that most churches are like the one I attend New Life Christian Center in Centerton, Arkansas.  Our pastors…all of them are good, solid Bible believing, Bible preaching, and Bible living people with strong godly families.  Our worship is amazing.  We used to be able to get through a couple of songs before the power of God fell, but lately we’ve been getting through one maybe two and a half songs at the most…and then the Holy Spirit takes over.

Why?  Why is it that we only need a song or two to get into the presence of the Lord?  It’s because we endeavor to fellowship together also.  My church is very pro-fellowship.  As mentioned in the last message…we have two campus’, we have a fellowship house, we regularly have men’s and women’s meetings, life groups, church cook outs, church picnics, family dinner nights, we have outreach things we do as a church, and there’s so many other things that our church does because they are serious about three things…Seeking God…Loving People…Making Disciples.

Can I submit to you that part of making disciples is loving people? If that wasn’t the case why did Jesus say that the world would know His disciples by the love that they have for one another. I would also like to submit to you once again that fellowshipping with other believers isn’t just a good idea…it’s something that God wants us to do.

1 Corinthians 1:9 says, “God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” Our primary fellowship is with Jesus Christ. The residual fellowship is the relationship we have with other people who share that relationship. You say, “Well, James, I feel it’s going a lot better with me and the Lord than it is with me and other Christians.” Sometimes that’s because we bring secular ways of relating into our Christian relationships. We can see this in the level and pace of our conversations.

I understand that it’s easy to get into a bubble.  I think that’s a bi-product of a religious mindset.  Remember how the religious people of Jesus’ day were always complaining about the people He chose to fellowship with?  It’s the same way today isn’t it?  I can’t tell you how many ugly looks, friends, followers, and arguments I’ve had because I still occasionally walk through the doors of a bar…and will sit down and have a beer. I have never walked into a bar and told everyone to drop what they’re doing and repent because they’re being such sinful people…they don’t need that because I’m sure their families, friends, and other Christians have already done that for me.  I have, however, walked into a bar had conversations with people about sports and other things…and had the ability to speak into their lives because they notice my light…they see something different in me that they are drawn too.

Isn’t that how people came to Jesus?  They were drawn to Him because there was something so different about Him, and yet when He spoke people listened.  Why is that?  My pastor has often been quoted as saying that “People don’t care about how much they have to say unless they know how much you care about them.”

Friends…the world is full of people who judge and condemn it for their lifestyles, their choices, and whatever else they do.  That’s coming from the world…and then when it comes from the church it the church doesn’t understand why it comes off as them being judgmental.  I can’t tell you how many times I have witnessed Christians losing the ability to minister to someone because instead of approaching them with love and the desire to actually show they care about that person…the start preaching at them and instead of doing good for God…they wind up doing more damage.

We must treat the world differently than people of the world treat people of the world.  I know that’s a strange thing to say, but why in the world would anyone want our God if we don’t represent Him any differently than the world does?  Friends…people in and of the world manage to treat people with more love and understanding than people in the church do…and then we’re wondering why no one wants to hear what we have to say…it’s because the world has no reason to want to hear it.

I have found that what my pastor frequently says is true.  The more people know that I genuinely care about them…the more people share with me, and the more access I have to impart into their lives.

Jesus was always dining with the people the religious folk didn’t want anything to do with, and that’s what the church ought to be doing today.  We ought to be going into the highways and bi-ways where the people who aren’t saved are…because those are the people who need to experience the love of God.

Do know why most people think God is angry and judging their lives?  Do you know why most people don’t know God loves them and wants to have a relationship with them?  Because the church is judgmental of them and has no desire to have a relationship with them because they’re worried about catching cooties from the world.  We have to be different to the world than the world is.  We have to treat them differently than the world does…

The worst thing is that we treat people in the church the same way as we treat people of the world.  Friends, if we’re no different in the church than we are in the world…then the world is going to see that and want no part of the church.  Why would they?  If the church doesn’t look any different from the world…why would they want to be a part of it?

If you were hoping for a feel good message…you came to the wrong ministry.  I am happy to write feel good messages, but I’m not going to just write those.  I am going to have to write messages that are going to get people to think, and you might get mad at me for what I’m saying…but keep in mind I am writing by inspiration of the Holy Ghost…therefore all I am is a messenger and a vessel…and I’m writing what the Holy Ghost wants me to write…so while you think you’re angry with me…you’re really angry with Him…and that’s something you’re going to have to deal with…I am responsible for writing what He wants me to write…what you do with it is up to you.

So, let’s take a look at a few things shall we!?!  Let’s talk for a moment about the level and pace of our conversations…and see what the Lord would have to speak to us about it.

Surface level — That’s where you talk about stuff like weather, sports, and other interests that aren’t (shocker here) central to life.

News flash!  I know this is going to rub people the wrong way, but I don’t read my Bible from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed.  I don’t listen to worship music all day either.  I don’t want nothing but preachers on television.  I read the newspaper some times.  I listen to sports talk on the radio.  I watch television programs like Criminal Minds and NCIS.  Here’s another news flash…not all of my conversations are about God, the Bible or Jesus.  Now, I realize there’s a group of people who think that every Christian ought to read the Bible from sun up to sun down, listen to nothing but Christian music, and never watch anything on television.  That Christians shouldn’t be interested in sports, they shouldn’t watch movies, that they shouldn’t like or listen to rock music.  There are whole denominations that believe that it’s more important to look like a Christian than to actually be one.

Listen.  My favorite rock band is 3 Doors Down.  I have almost every one of their CD’s.  Not all the songs on my iPhone are Christian songs.  I have rock music, country music, and even some pop music.  I am a huge sports fan.  I’m a Chicago White Sox fan, and I even admin on Facebook for a White Sox fan page.  I’m a huge Washington Redskins fan too.  I’m from Wisconsin so I cheer for a lot of their collegian sports teams.  I just told you I like a lot of the cops shows on television.

So…I know it’s a huge shock to some of you, but I have other interests outside of the church, the Bible, and therefore I am able to have conversations about things other than the Bible.  I mean I can talk about the weather and some news topics and even some political topics.  I also have a secular job, and that requires me to be able to talk about things other than what’s in the Bible.  Surface level conversations and topics are good to know because those are generally ice breaking topics that lead us into relationships with people.

Once a relationship is established…then it may become possible for God to open a door for you to share your testimony or something with them.  You have to wait upon and trust God to open the door and for the right timing to talk to people about Jesus.

Listen.  There are some people who I have yet to talk to about Jesus, and it’s not because I don’t want to it’s because I’ve been able to discern that they aren’t ready for that conversation yet. For me to brow beat them with Bible verses and to repent because God’s not happy with their choices and the way they are living isn’t going to do anything for them right now…and it’s going to cost me an opportunity when they’re ready for it…if I get to preaching at them instead of just hanging out with them.

And before you quote to me the Bible verses about being unequally yoked and light isn’t to fellowship with darkness…and whatever else you’re going to quote to me…the fact is that there are people who aren’t going to listen to what you have to say until they believe that you truly care about them as a person…and until they believe that if you preach to them you’ll lose them…and before you say something about how if you lose them then they weren’t meant to be in my life…I believe that everyone in my life is there by divine appointment and divine purpose…either for my growth or for me to impart into them.

I am called to be a pastor.  A pastor is a shepherd.  Do you know that every shepherd has a personal relationship with every one of his sheep?  That’s what I’m called to do as a pastor.  It’s my responsibility to cultivate relationships and to fellowship with people…and you know what…the more I do that and the less I preach at people about how their lifestyle doesn’t please God…the more opportunities I have to sow into their lives because they know that I really care about them…and therefore I wind up with access to their lives and the ability to minister to them.

That’s the kind of thing that surface talk is about.  It’s about breaking the ice, and getting a conversation going. I’ve found much more success that way than preaching at people…and so that’s the approach that I’m sticking with.

• Personal level — There doesn’t have to be another Christian to have this conversation about your health, your career, your family. “We’ve been thinking about you. How’s it going with your son?”

This is what I’m talking about.  Before I can get to the deeper issues in a person’s life or heart I need to have an already established relationship with them.  Friends, people are hurting, they have been hurt, broken, and many of them by church people trying to speak the truth in love to them…but the problem is they aren’t very loving…they are condemning and rather than have an opportunity to minister to a personal need they lose it by being judgmental jerks.

Surface level talks eventually can and will lead to personal level talks, and that’s when you can start to use your knowledge of scripture and what God can do in life’s situations.  Look at one of the most loved stories in the Bible.  Jesus is standing at the well and a woman comes up, and He asks her for a drink.  They engage in surface talk before He gets to the deeper issue in her heart about the men she had been sleeping around with.  He didn’t just go right into “why are you sleeping around with all these men…none of them are your husbands…don’t you know that’s against the Bible…”  Don’t tell me y’all don’t do that because I’ve heard you do it…I’ve seen it on Facebook and Twitter.

Friends…I can tell you that if someone comes up to me brow beating me about my life and things I’m doing, and how God isn’t pleased and I’m going to hell if I continue and on and on and on…I’m not only going to tune this person out, but I’m quite likely going to wind up laying into them…telling them to get lost…and the tragic thing is they’re going to go back and be like “Praise God I just endured some persecution for the Lord’s sake.”

No…you didn’t.  That’s not persecution.  Persecution is more than just having someone yell at you to get out of their face because they don’t want to hear you preach to them.  That’s not persecution that’s rejection, and they’re not rejecting the Word…they’re rejecting you.  Why?  Because they don’t believe for a second you really care about their eternal well-being…and you come across as a car sales rep instead of someone who represents Jesus Christ.

• Spiritual level — This is where fellowship really begins, where you’re having conversations you can’t have with anybody else. This level often includes prayer. It should definitely include Christ.

Once you get people to open up to you about their personal lives it’s only then that you can move to the spiritual level.  This is where you respond by asking if you can pray for them or if you have the ability to meet a need of there’s you do that…but this is the point where it’s important to allow the Holy Spirit to take the lead.

In all levels of conversation it’s extremely important to allow the Holy Spirit to be the One that takes the lead, and therefore by yielding to Him you’ll be able to discern when to take the conversation to the personal, and finally spiritual level.  BUT!!! If you do it without the leading and promptings of the Holy Ghost…you’ll wind up in the same place I described a minute ago…rejected.

Let me repeat something cause it’s stuck on my mind, and that means the Holy Ghost wants me to say it again.  Persecution is a lot more than having someone scream at you to get out of their face.  That’s not persecution it’s rejection, and they’re not rejecting Jesus or the message you’re trying to bring them…they are rejection you…and it’s not because of the Word’s sake neither.

They aren’t rejecting the Word they’re rejecting you.  We need to always rely upon the Holy Ghost to lead us and direct us…especially in the matter of personal one to one ministry.  You may have to talk to the same person many, many times before they’re able to let you share the Gospel with them.  When you rely upon the Holy Ghost…you will always get them at the right time…when you rely upon yourself…you run the risk of further driving that person away.

So, let’s take a look at a few more points, and close this message out.

• Don’t rush — It’s alright to start at the surface or personal levels—but don’t get stuck there.

Now, I did say that we ought to break the ice by talking at the surface area, but there should be a progression in the conversations.  If it never gets to the personal level then you haven’t made a connection with that person, and if you haven’t made a connection…then you’re never going to get to the spiritual level.  Do yourself and other Christians a favor…if you can’t get to the personal level…don’t force the spiritual level…because they’re not ready to receive it.

I know…you’re going to say I just want to plant a seed.  Friends, some times you’re not even going to get to plant a seed.  I have learned to rely completely upon the leading of the Holy Ghost when it comes to sharing the gospel with people.  You have to trust the Holy Ghost.  You have to rely upon Him.  He will let you know when the time is right.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with getting stuck in the personal level.  If your stuck on surface level then as I mentioned a moment ago…you may not even be able to plant that seed…verbally.  We can always plant a seed by just being Christ to people.

Do you know, some times one of the greatest things we can do for people is just listen?  That’s all part of allowing yourself to be what people need.  It’s not always about fixing people…some times people just need someone to listen to…even if it’s just surface level stuff.  That can be just as great a witness as preaching to them…and some times greater.

• Go first — Demonstrate you can be trusted by trusting. Show them fellowship is two-way by disclosing something from your life in relation to God.

I always kind of experiment with this part because their reaction will usually help me to know whether there’s going to be a deeper conversation or if they’re not quite ready to go there yet. Again, it’s relying upon the Holy Ghost, and learning to discern where people are at…instead of just jumping down their throats with “repent or go to hell”.  Fellowship requires a relationship…and a relationship requires time.

Friends, there are people who I’ve been talking to and just being the best example and ambassador for Christ I can be for years. I still share my personal testimony, but I believe that many times it’s not what we say that draws people to Christ…but how we live…and further more…if what we say and how we live match…that gives us credibility…and credibility gives us access to share God with people.

There’s always that possibility that there is going to be that moment when that person comes up to you and asks you why you never get freaked out.  How come you’re always smiling?  Why don’t you cuss like a sailor? That’s the moment when they are ready for you to share Christ with them.

Yes, there are times when you’re going to have to initiate that…but that’s where you have to…and I mean absolutely have to rely upon the Holy Ghost.  It is vital that you allow the Holy Ghost to lead you, and never get ahead of Him…because He will always let you know when the right time to lead someone to Christ is.  I know that will bother many people, but the truth is…there are four types of hearts…Jesus talked about them in the parable of the sower.

The best way to make sure you have receptive and responsive hearts…is to allow the Holy Ghost to lead you.  I am convinced if the church would allow the Holy Ghost to lead them as to when it’s time to plant the seed…we would have a much easier time and greater harvest.  Instead…we jump on folks with this “repent and turn from your sins or go to hell” message…and we don’t understand why people don’t want to hear what we have to say.

• Be specific — Don’t use spiritual phrases or terms simply for effect. Be cautious with “Praise the Lord!” or “God is Good!” if you’re not ready to talk about what you mean.

I will just allow this point to speak for itself.  Some times, you just have to allow things to make their way into your heart and meditate upon them for a moment.

Be cautious…you’re not trying to sell someone a car or insurance.  You’re trying to introduce them to the King of kings and Lord of lords.  You’re trying to get them to a place where they see what you have, and desire to know more.  You’re trying to get them to a place where not only do they want to know more, but they want to experience it for themselves.

Don’t rush the process.  It takes time to build a relationship to the place of fellowship.  It takes time to get people’s guard down, and before you have the opportunity to share the gospel with them.  It is truly about relying upon God.

Some times you may have an instant opportunity, but I’ve found at least in my experience that it takes time to develop a trust with people before you can get to the personal level so that you can eventually get into the spiritual level with them.

The more you do it, and the more you allow God to lead you in it…the better you’ll be at discerning when the time is right to lead people to Christ…and that should and is always the ultimate goal…leading someone to make a decision to ask Jesus to be their Lord and Savior…Amen!?!

God help all of us to deepen the level of our interaction with one another.

Let’s pray…

Father…thank You so much for all three levels of conversation. But thank You most for designing us to yearn for depth in relationships. Thank You for meeting us as we meet each other in honesty, integrity, and transparency before You. Thank You for the privilege of intimate fellowship with Your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

In Closing

Well, I hope this message is helpful.  I am having to read these messages to myself, and have come to realize in just two messages that there’s so much about fellowship that I have to learn.  There’s a lot about fellowship and relationship building that I have to be better at…and I want to be better at…and so I think this series comes at a good time…and I hope and pray that we all take these messages to heart…and that our relationships get better and we’ll be more successful in our opportunities to minister to people.

Have you been blessed by this ministry? Would you like to help me out?  Here are some really practical ways you can help me out.

1) Engage – I don’t always have time to reply to everyone but I read every single comment and post on here. I reply to every message and email and every one blesses me! Please do get involved and let me get to know you in the little ways we can online.

2) Share – If you love the posts here, or maybe an article on the website… please share it on Facebook or Twitter… it really helps new people find this ministry and be blessed by the good news of the gospel…and tell people about us.

3) Pray – We really value your prayers. Pray for this message to find good soil – that God would continue to bring new faces to this ministry that are ready to accept His embrace.

Thank you to everyone for your ongoing support. All of you who follow me are of great encouragement to me…and I’m grateful for all of you.

You can also follow me on Twitter: @ChristMinistNWA & also on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/ChristlikeMinistriesNWA.

Blessings & Grace to you!
Pastor Bryan Kizer
Christlike Ministries NWA
“My love be with you all in Christ Jesus.” (1 Cor. 16:24)

 

 

 

 

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