Building Loving Relationships Among Church Family
Words by Marci Ferrell
Our lives as Christians in this fallen world are a battle (Eph. 6:10–20). The devil doesn't want to see our churches thrive with loving relationships that are filled with godliness, grace, encouragement, and forgiveness. He desires to see us torn apart, waging war against each other because if we're so caught up in our own sinful issues, our focus will not be on Christ.
Sometimes it seems more comfortable to sit at home and listen to our favorite online pastor or watch Sunday morning worship on a screen. Church can be complicated. Building relationships takes effort and sacrifice. We live in a self-centered culture, and sadly this has crept into our churches. God didn't design us to be loners in our Christian walk, but desires us to be in a local body where “love and good works” can be lived out among family (Heb. 10:24–25).
The Beauty of the Church
Do you look at those in your church and see them as your family? If you are in Christ, then your brothers and sisters in the faith are your family. Sometimes, because of this, we treat them like our own immediate blood relatives. We hold a grudge because they said something we didn't appreciate. We judge them by their words or actions. We speak poorly of them to others. We so often forget they, just like us, are sinners saved by grace who don't always look or act like their Heavenly Father but look and act more like their old selves before new life in Christ.
Caring for each other in the Body of Christ is a shared responsibility. It isn't just to be put on the church leadership. We are all responsible for seeing and meeting the needs of the Body of Christ.
“So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Galatians 6:10)
We are not only to meet their physical needs when we can, but also to address when we see them falling into sinful situations. We are to look out for each other's spiritual needs. Do you see your fellow brother or sister being drawn into false teaching? Warn them. Can you provide help for them when they are in financial need? Meet the need. Can you encourage them when they are going through a valley? Encourage and pray with them.
Fellowship of Believers
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42–47)
This passage describes what it looks like to have true Christian fellowship within our local churches. One of the first criteria is Christian fellowship can only happen among people who are saved. This means those that have been born again, those that have repented and put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. True Christian fellowship begins among believers who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ.
Devotion to the Lord's People
The believers in the Early Church were devoted to one another; in verse 42 above, the text reads literally, “They were continually devoting themselves to the fellowship.” We can't devote ourselves to Christ (the Head of the Body) without being devoted to the Church (his Body). It is too easy to become offended and cut ourselves off from fellowship. Hebrew 10:25 commands us not to forsake the assembly of the saints, and verses like Colossians 3:13 encourage us to forgive each other and bear with one another.
Fellowship cannot happen if you are not part of a local church. Even within our local bodies some of our congregations can be large, and it may be hard to have close fellowship with other believers, so we need to be intentional. We can only have deep fellowship if we are spending time with each other and getting involved in each other’s lives.
This may mean taking the time to attend small group Bible studies or prayer meetings. It means being intentional in planning times to get together with those in your church body. Take the time to open your home to others and invite them for dinner or coffee.
Charles Spurgeon reminded us of the importance of gathering together: “Some Christians try to go to heaven alone, in solitude. But believers are not compared to bears or lions or other animals that wander alone. Those who belong to Christ are sheep in this respect, that they love to get together. Sheep go in flocks, and so do God’s people.”
Doing Life Together Brings Compassion
One of the most significant benefits of being together is it brings about knowing people on a deeper, more intimate level. You begin to truly love one another as you see each other's weaknesses and strengths. You start to understand the difficulties of their lives and can have genuine compassion for them.
Most of the time we find ourselves judging others because we know nothing about them personally. We are judging as the world does on the outside, and we never take the time to understand what is happening on the inside.
You love your immediate family members unconditionally because you are so familiar with their strengths and weaknesses. You love them because you spend time with them, genuinely getting to know all about them and can see beyond their weaknesses and come to love them just as they are—works in progress.
Our fellow brothers and sisters in the faith are works in progress, and if we would spend some time just getting beyond the superficial and learn more about them, our love for them would grow, and we would find ourselves offering much grace and forgiveness during times of misunderstanding or difficulties.
True Christian Conversation
Many times we get stuck in the rut of just conversing with fellow believers about the weather or food or current events. These are not bad topics in and of themselves, but as Christians, we should desire to speak of things of the Lord with each other. If the Lord has a proper place in our lives, we will want to speak of him often.
Let’s ask each other deeper questions like:
What have you been reading in the Word?
How can I be praying for you?
What has the Lord been teaching you in this season?
Have you had any evangelistic opportunities lately?
Asking questions can be a help in directing our conversations with brothers and sisters in the faith to the spiritual.
We can all meet various needs within the Body, whether material or spiritual. Acts 2:45 addresses material needs and 1 Timothy 6:18 encourages us to be generous and ready to share with those in need. We are not to enable a person who is lazy (2 Thess. 3:6–12), but we are called to help those without food and clothing if we can take care of those needs. Your pastor and church leadership can't meet all the needs of the congregation, nor are they called to. It is a responsibility of the whole family to take care of the whole family.
The Lord adds to the Church, but we are the vessels he uses to spread his saving Gospel to a lost world. Encourage each other in the role of evangelism. Be intentional in sharing the gospel with others and building relationships with those who don’t know Christ. Plan times to go out and witness with a friend and have good, solid tracts on hand to share as you are going about your errands. Make sure you can clearly proclaim the gospel.
No Perfect Churches
We are not going to find a perfect local church here on this earth. Our immediate families aren't perfect. We're not perfect and come with our own issues. We must devote ourselves to the Lord and continue to learn to love and serve the Body of Christ. As we are obedient to this work set before us by the Lord (Eph. 2:10), he will continue to add daily to the number of those being saved (Acts 2:47).
May they know we are Christians by our love for our Lord Jesus Christ and by our love for the family of God.