“Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light, and there is nothing in them to make them stumble” 1 John 2:10 (NIV).
If you spend any time reading the epistles in the New Testament (those quick, short books usually addressed to a church community), you’ll discover that it takes dedication and consistency to love our Christian family well. From heated theological debates to personal disagreements to church splits, the Early Church faced everything we still wrestle with today. Probably because today’s Church and the Early Church were made up of the same thing: imperfect people. If we glean any wisdom from them, it’s this: we need to keep showing up and doing our part in the Church, allowing ourselves to be shaped in the process of loving the people God loves.* Here are a few things we can do in 2020 to nurture our relationship with Christ-followers.
- Join or lead a small group.
Growing up, there were multiple opportunities to connect with people who shared my faith. We had Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, Wednesday night service, with special events like a carnival, car wash, youth night, going out for hamburgers after church sprinkled in for good measure. Today many churches have one weekend service with the hopes that people will meet during the week to study God’s word and “do life together.” As our culture becomes more connected through social media yet more isolated from actual in-person interaction, the need for weekly small gathers is evident. Beyond that felt need is the biblical model of meeting together in small groups called house churches in the book of Acts. God created us to need one another and then gave us a model to fulfill that need. If you haven’t joined a small group, stop reading this and find out how to do so at your church. If you’ve been attending a small group, pray and consider helping your small group leader as a way to train to eventually lead your own group.
- Find or become a mentor/discipler.
Our age or years in the faith does not negate the fact that we need to learn and to grow in our faith continually. One way to do this is to find someone you respect and ask if you can spend time with them and learn how to better follow Jesus from them. If you have been discipled, pray and ask God to show you someone that you can invest in. Check out my posts from June and July 2019 in which I go in-depth about discipleship.
- Extend forgiveness.
I have yet to meet a person who hasn’t been hurt by another Christian. Sometimes the hurt is deep because, when we think of our faith family, we hold them to a higher standard than the rest of the world. They really should know better, shouldn’t they? Perhaps. Or perhaps they’re on a faith journey just like you and me and are making mistakes along the way. When we’re hurt by someone, we have a choice to make: to forgive or to hold on that hurt. Pray and ask God to show you if you need to forgive anyone and to give you wisdom on how to proceed. Perhaps a conversation with the person is needed, or perhaps the hurt is something you process with God alone.
Movement Step: Pray and pick a movement step above or come up with your own movement step that helps you grow in your relationship with Christ-followers. Be sure to ask a friend to keep you accountable for making this step a reality.
*Please note this advice is not to be applied in church contexts where there is clear abuse—spiritual, sexual, financial, or otherwise. In those cases, find another local church you can be committed to and seek out healing for any abuse you may have experienced.