Called to Encourage

Called to Encourage

Yesterday my close friend and I gathered in my living room amidst toys, empty juice boxes, and unfolded (but clean!) laundry. We buzzed with excitement despite the mess as we shared what God has been teaching us this week through Scripture, prayer, and everyday life. Hopes lifted up, tears shed, hearts humbled in prayer. Like that, an hour and a half flew by and it was time for her to leave, even though we could have kept going for hours. After I closed the door behind her,  reality hit once again. My circumstances hadn’t changed one iota, but my outlook was re-energized and refocused.

But be filled by the Spirit: speaking to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, singing and making music with your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of Christ.

Ephesians 5:18 – 21

God has recently put a strong desire on my heart for committed fellowship. And it’s no coincidence how God brings people into your path because it turns out, I’m not the only one feeling this way. He had stirred up a desire in some of my closest friends in Christ who are also faithfully seeking after God’s will. 

Having received this confirmation, I immediately set to work creating a manifesto for the group. In my vision, these sisters would be privileged and committed in the Spirit to sharing, encouraging, rebuking, and praying for one another. An accountability group, of sorts.

Now, I know that this may sound a little extreme. Like something only people with serious addictions have. To be honest, it’s not that far off the mark; technically we believers do have serious addictions to rebelling against God. The need for commitment to community and fellowship is written all over the Bible:

Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.

1 Thessalonians 5:11

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Fellowship and accountability is not only portrayed as wise, it is for safety, it is for love, and it is for the good of the whole community. We realize that life happens and circumstances change so this won’t last forever. However, in our desire to remain faithful to the very end we will do what it takes to stay vigilant in faith and not stumble.

This is what I imagine Heaven will be like – an eternal meeting of souls that love Jesus, overflowing with hope and uncontained zeal for his Word. While Heaven is going to be an indescribable experience, we luckily have the chance to enjoy a taste of it here on Earth.

Reflection

  • Read Ecclesiastes 4:9-12
  • What would it look like to start an accountability group within your circle?

Put it into practice

Feeling challenged to gather some pals and start doing the same thing? Please download the Accountability Group Manifesto below and make it your own, as the Spirit leads. And then tell me in the comments how it goes!

Seeking a church family

Seeking a church family

I’ve been struggling with this concept in my personal life lately. My husband and I recently moved to a new town with new churches and an entire new community. We have not yet settled on a place to attend. We are church-homeless.

Not that we expect the church we decide to call home to be perfect. We aren’t that naive. Instead, we search for the particular features that make us feel at home. Style of preaching. Good music. Professional sound team. Enough people our age.

But when I read Jen’s heartfelt exhortation to us this morning, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I’m searching for things that make me feel outwardly comfortable and proud to attend a certain place. I never thought about choosing the right kind of people.

They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s who I should be searching for. After all, the church is only a group of people. People aren’t attractive fliers, preachers, music, or donuts. And I want to make my church home a place where those people love Jesus more than anything else.

We are still on our search. (Please pray for us!)

I, like all of you, am going to an imperfect church this morning. I have failed it in innumerable ways, and I’ve felt the sting of disappointment there too. Church is hard.

But every single Sunday, every one, I find Jesus there. I am renewed in tiny or even enormous ways. But largely, when I look around the room, I see the faces of people that are so good, so courageous, so committed and loving, I cannot imagine doing life without them. They are, quite simply, the best people I know. The struggles and addictions and losses they have overcome would flatten you – it’s just a little middle school cafeteria but it is full of bravery. And they love well. They love each other, they love the staff, they love the city, and they love God.

That’s enough.

Folks, my prayer for you this morning is that you find your simple church where Jesus is lifted high and people are loved, and plant there with all your might. Your church will be so imperfect. SO. The staff and leaders will not magically make life fulfilling. People will let you down (and you them). Stuff will go sideways and have to be righted. There will be hard conversations and honest confessions and apologies and lots of forgiveness, but the presence of these things doesn’t mean you are doing it wrong. It means you are building a church with human people and you love them too much to let it all slip through your fingers without fighting for unity.

May you find grace for your church today. May you find your people and put up a parking lot. And I hope that today, or maybe someday, you’ll look around the room like I do and marvel at what beautiful, wonderful people you are surrounded with, grateful that you get to love God and love each other and love people together, imperfectly.

-Jen Hatmaker, originally posted on Facebook