Willie says, “I have no real relationships in the entire congregation and feel isolated in my Christian walk with God. I consider myself to not have any friends. I feel like I can talk to no one except my wife when I am going through something. How do I get connected and build relationships like the New Testament calls us to?”
Hi, Willie. First of all, let me say “well done” for your faithful commitment to your local church. We exist to be in fellowship with one another, and it is good to witness your desire to see that lived out in your own life. And I especially praise God for your faithful wife.
That said, we know that fellowship has a price. Philippians 1 challenges us to an incredible mission (1:5 – fellowship in the gospel). Philippians 2 says that our fellowship in the Spirit leads to unity in how we love and how we think (2:3). Philippians 3 points out that our deep connection to Christ shows itself in celebrating both the power of His resurrection and our participation (fellowship) in His sufferings (3:10).
My point is certainly not a secret, but it is a difficult truth to swallow: True Christian community living is really hard. So please don’t give up on these people! The connection you earnestly seek is something every follower of Jesus Christ needs, whether the typical person in the room on Sunday morning is aware of that need or not.
My hope is that you will be the disciple that you wish others would be for you. Continue serving faithfully because it’s the right thing to do. Find someone to disciple and set the example for others to follow on how that relationship should be done. Be the greatest small group member ever. And let the Holy Spirit work through you as He opens doors for discipleship and relationships in His timing.
Someone gave me fantastic advice many years ago: We all need an Apostle Paul who drives us to connect with others. We need a younger Timothy to speak to. (There are likely some in your congregation who would appreciate your Biblical and Godly wisdom). We need a Barnabas who encourages us. (I am praying for you to discover that person). But we also need an “external Barnabas”— someone not in the congregation who can provide a valuable connection. I hope and pray that God will reveal a friend “away from the fray” to help you prayerfully process the inevitable struggles that come with trying to live life in God’s community.
We have two letters from the Apostle Paul to Timothy. In the first letter, Paul describes Timothy as “my true child in the faith” (1 Tim. 1:2). But 2 Timothy starts a little differently: It describes Timothy as “my beloved child” (2 Tim. 1:2). I think this is important: I Timothy was written to a church. 2 Timothy was written to a man in desperate need of a father figure. By my count, there are 22 different people mentioned in 2 Timothy. Some of them are wonderful examples of faithful Christ-like service, others are … not. I feel that your heart is filled with examples of those who are not great examples. I pray that God will provide a person in your church who will call you “beloved child.” And I pray that He will place someone in your life whom you will call “beloved child.” That’s what faithful fellowship does.
Don’t give up. Your example of faithful discipleship and service to others will eventually engender trust and respect within the body. God has a way of protecting and providing for those who live out a sincere faith.
What Paul told the church at Philippi is my prayer for you as well: “… that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).[NOTE: If you’re facing difficulties with finding satisfying and sufficient fellowship in the church, these considerations can really help you too!]
–Tracy Thomas, Discipleship Minister at Second Church, Danville, IL.