In a recent Covenant Members gathering, which took place as Peine Families were getting geared up for the Fall, I shared some thoughts on where our focus should be as we think about Peine Family. Below is an approximation of what I shared.
Our Peine Families have been on our summer schedules for several months now. For some groups, that meant getting together for BBQs or game nights. For others, it meant not getting together at all. But for all the groups, it meant not getting together weekly. I wonder how you felt about that? Was it really nice to have one less thing to clutter up your schedule? Nice to not have to make small talk? Nice to be able to just take Wednesday evening to relax? Nice to not have to use the emotional and mental energy to open up and be vulnerable?
In a new book called “Rediscover Church” authors Collin Hansen and Jonathan Leeman write:
Think about it. Maybe you struggle with hidden hatred toward a brother all week. But then his presence at the Lord’s Table draws you to conviction and confession. You struggle with suspicion toward a sister. But then you see her singing the same songs of praise, and your heart warms. You struggle with anxiety over what’s happening politically in your nation. But then the preacher declares Christ’s coming in victory and vindication, you hear shouts of “Amen!” all around you, and you recall that you belong to a heavenly citizenry allied in hope. You’re tempted to keep your struggle in the dark. But then the older couple’s tender but pressing question over lunch—“How are you really?”—draws you into the light.
The aim of this book is remind us all that the Church is essential. In this section, they’re reminding us of some of the great benefits to us of gathering regularly with the Church. I haven’t read the whole book, just a small excerpt, so I don’t know if this is the focus of the whole book or not. Based on what I know of the authors, it’s probably a good book. But, in the excerpt I read, I realized that something was missing. The focus is on me. What the Church can do for me. Now, there are real benefits to us of gathering with the Church, and those things should motivate us to gather together. And yet, I don’t see that as the focus of the New Testament. I did a search on the words “one another” in the NT Epistles, and there are a bunch of them. Here’s a sampling:
“abound in love for one another”
“confess your sins to one another”
“forgive one another”
“comfort one another”
“pray for one another”
“greet one another with a kiss of love”
“serve one another”
“Show hospitality to one another without grumbling”
“encourage one another and build one another up”
“exhort one another”
And more… All of these passages indicate that our first concern when we think about close fellowship should be on how we can serve and bless other believers. Our first concern shouldn’t be, “How is being deeply committed to a Peine Family (PFam) or Discipleship Group (DG) good for me and my family?” Scripture teaches us that our primary concern should be, “If I’m not committed to PFam & DG, can I truly obey all these ‘one another’ commands that the Lord has given me?”
The Lord, through His Word, urges us to consider others as better than ourselves, to consider first how we can benefit others in community, not whether I and my family will benefit from PFam or DG. And this shouldn’t surprise us, since we follow the One who came to serve, not to be served.
If being committed to a PFam or DG feels like a sacrifice to you (and it always will, to some degree), then the call of our Lord is take up your cross daily, die to yourself and follow Him.
So, what should you do? What if you have no desire to get together?
Pray. Ask God for the desire to bless others through your intentional engagement in fellowship.
No energy for it, emotionally or physically? Ask God for the strength to do his will.
Does it feel like your schedule is too full for it? Ask God for wisdom with your and your family’s schedule to prioritize your time according to His priorities.
Don’t feel like it’s worth the effort? Ask God for the faith to believe that He is doing more good through you than what you can see on the surface.
Keep your focus on following Jesus on the path of self-sacrifice. It will give Him glory and, because God is good and gracious, giving Jesus glory will also be where you find true and lasting joy.