Humans are all very social creatures. We need interaction with others in order to thrive, survive, get improved ideas and become better, more rounded people. Fellowship is defined as the companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms. A close association of friends or equals who share similar interests. Could you live your whole life alone without any interaction with another person? Think about Will Smith in the movie “I am Legend”.
Before those two people showed up in his life, it was just him and his dog. You do need time alone to re-group and reflect on yourself but you also need other people. “Two are better than one”. You might have heard the expression. That’s why God invented marriage. To allow more than one person to go through life with. To compliment you, to sometimes correct you. To support you. To guide you. To be guided by you. There are so many more benefits to being in fellowship with another person or people than by being alone.
I am a guy, so I will attempt to define women and their friendships. They are very community oriented creatures. They thrive on being with one another. They almost need it as much as they need oxygen. My daughter recently became friends with a next-door neighbor girl. After knowing each other for just 30 minutes, they were eating together, painting fingernails, sharing toys and laughing. You would have thought that they had known one another for years. Now they’ve even planned several sleep overs!
However, you won’t see that with boys. Here’s the interaction my son has with his friend. My son and his friend can spend hours going over a game of Minecraft. They give one another ideas, they share stories about how they planted some wheat and made bread with it, they warn each other about zombies, etc. There’s never any mention of what color their fingernails are. They don’t talk about their favorite Disney character. They simply stick to the facts and things that interest them.
Men are very similar. This is one of the attributes that separates us from women. We are almost the polar opposite regarding friendships and relationships. We are natural loners. We like time by ourselves. We are natural thinkers. It takes a while to give our opinions and talk about our feelings. We are natural liars. We like to protect ourselves from probing and inquisitive outsiders. We are natural judges. We like to look at other people and compare them when we should instead be looking within. But we are also natural strongmen. Inside every man is a William Wallace waiting to emerge. With some men, it already has. With others, it just takes some coaxing and exploration to find him. All these attributes don’t make men wrong, it just makes us different.
Consider these lyrics written by Paul Simon from “I am a Rock”:
I’ve built walls,
A fortress deep and mighty,
That none may penetrate.
I have no need of friendship, friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.
I am a rock,
I am an island.
Paul Simon defines what a lot of men think. We are mighty enough to not need friendship. If we take on a few friends, that’s fine but we tend to shy away from groups or organizations where we have to be transparent and reveal our feelings.
And that’s very true. It’s tough to open yourself up to others. Many people have struggles, temptations, failures and disappointments we like to keep bottled up inside. We don’t like to allow anyone to see our inner-heart for fear of exposure and embarrassment. But if you ask anyone if they want to continue to live like that, they’re honest answer will be no. The hardest decision to make is to take that first step in faith, to open yourself up to someone else about all that is inside you. That is why so many people are hurting inside. They don’t have the courage to give it all up and see if someone else may be able to help them.
This post is coming from a guy’s perspective, so I will remain on that level. If you want a woman’s perspective on their levels of friendship and fellowship, you’ll find them much more different than what you will read here. There are four levels of fellowship that every guy should be involved in:
- Small group
- Person to person (one on one)
- Person to God (or alone-time).
Even if you’re not a believer and follower of Jesus (often known as a Christian), you need some form of these four fellowships.
This is the kind of fellowship that most Christian men are already involved in. The best example of this happens once a week on either Saturday or Sunday. It’s called church. Now “the church” isn’t an actual building, it is the entire body of Christ. The people of Christ throughout the world (also known as the bride of Christ). However, in this case, church is when fellow believers and followers of Christ (and some who are still searching) come together once a week in a building (or sometimes outside). They usually have some songs and a pastor will speak for 45 minutes or so.
If you don’t attend a church, have you ever been to a sports game? Have you ever attended a business gathering? A political rally? All these have a similar effect that church has on Christians.
This kind of fellowship is very necessary for both men and women. There is something about being in the same area with others who believe like you do. Who are rooting for the same team. Whose ideas are in sync with one another. Whose minds are going in the same direction. You might arrive at church or a business gathering feeling weak or “iffy” about a certain idea. All it takes is to feel the oneness and energy pulsating through the group and you feel more driven, more compelled, better equipped, more passionate. It refreshes your spirit or maybe your drive to become a better Christian, a better employee or go buy a team jersey. Corporate fellowship is necessary for those who need direction about their beliefs, their performance or a simply need to be a part of something that is greater than themselves.
It is easy to be a part of this type of fellowship. It usually doesn’t require any involvement other than being a face in the crowd or taking up a seat. There might be some singing or chanting or note taking involved but everyone does it. That’s what makes it easier.
This is as far as most men go though. They feel comfortable with being a face in the crowd at church. They go to a mega church so they don’t have to be remembered by anybody or so they can brag to their friends about how big their sanctuary is. In their Christian walk, the only free time they give God is for about one hour a week at church. The hard part comes with going beyond that by giving more of their time to their Creator.
Small Group Fellowship
This is the first step towards opening oneself up. Many men yearn to be a part of a small team and feel the satisfaction that they can give back and contribute or serve. A lot of churches have what they call small groups or life groups. These are small gatherings of like-minded people made up of about 20 or fewer souls. Some of these groups target young married couples, young parents, college-aged twenty somethings, career singles, retired folks, empty-nesters and the list goes on.
These small group fellowships can also be a hobby group, a volleyball team, a cycling group, a hiking group or a bunch of guys going fishing. It is anything that grabs the attention of up to twenty people where they can share ideas, enjoy one another’s company, encourage each other, teach one another or just be in the vicinity with someone who supports them.
It is easy to be a part of a Sunday School or a small group with your spouse. You go as a team. Sure, you have your ideas but your existence as a couple is mostly together and as the same mind. The tough part is to join a small group by yourself – a men’s bible study or a group where others view you solely on your own ideas, the experiences that come from your own wisdom. You don’t have someone beside you who knows you through and through. There is no one next to you like a spouse who can complete your idea or build on it. Everything is based on you and your character.
When I was married, I was a part of a married couple’s class at church. I felt strong and well balanced when I was with my wife. As a couple, we represented our household. I was never a part of a guy’s fellowship when I was married. It didn’t scare me, it just never came to my mind. I was always busy trying to enrich my marriage that I never really thought about enriching myself. My character was based only on my marriage. Sure, I could function on my own, but the sole survival of my character was always based on my marriage.
When I first began attending a guy’s Sunday School when I was single, I was fine…until I was asked to speak. I was an introvert and was not used to speaking in groups larger than two. I clammed up, fidgeted and muttered a few general cliches in response.
Since then, I have changed a lot. I began attending a group of Christian men called The Samson Society. Samson was unlike any Christian men’s group I had ever been to. It was very structured. Each meeting consists of reading the “charter” that is further broken down into the fact, the path and the pact. It clearly defines what the Samson Society believes: they are an extension of the church universal. They are a company of Christian men whose purpose is to assist one another in their common journey. They share honestly from their life’s experiences the challenges and encouragements of living in a fallen world. They meet together not for bible study but to simply talk. After a topic is chosen, each guy has the floor for 5 minutes and can discuss the topic or whatever else is commanding his attention. He has the floor and no one else can engage him or ask questions. Usually, the guys talk about their week, what they’re struggling with, what victories they’ve experienced or something profound they want to share.
I’ve been attending Samson meetings since 2013 and it has been very eye opening,
inspirational and beneficial for me. I’ve gained insight that I would never have otherwise. I’ve grown in my Christian walk by hearing stories and reflections by other Christian brothers and I’ve felt closer to other men in a way that I never have before. Here’s my Samson Society page.
I strongly encourage you to start attending a small group. If you already do with your wife, that’s great. However, I urge you to attend a group where you are alone with other guys. And I say guys because a single’s group usually has a mix of genders. There is nothing like being a room with other men and hearing their stories, encouragements, struggles, victories and wisdom. I always feel like I’ve gained an extra bit of knowledge or wisdom after being with other Christian men where we open up and expose our inner beings. One of the most profound quotes I’ve ever heard is “Where there are secrets, there are lies”. There is nothing more amazing than to open yourself up to other trusting guys and reveal things you have only kept to yourself. The healing and growing process that comes after that is so profound.
Person to Person Fellowship
The next level of fellowship is person to person. That is simply a one on one meeting. In the Samson Society, they call this the “Silas”. You might have heard of Paul and Silas in the bible. They were early Christian missionaries who proclaimed the gospel to the gentiles in southern Europe and the Middle East. They went out together as a pair instead of by themselves. This made them stronger and more powerful. They were able to keep one another liable and accountable. Their actions were more justifiable as a team rather than independently.
In Mark 6:7, Jesus sent the apostles out to the villages two by two. One of the reasons for this was the Jewish tradition of having “two witnesses.” The Old Testament law (Deuteronomy 19:15) ordered that there had to be two witnesses to accuse someone of a crime. In Jesus’ time, this old rule was also a very practical conception that two eyewitnesses were more dependable than just one. So when Jesus’ disciples when out in twos, they brought with them a much more credible presence than if they had been alone.
Another reason Jesus sent out his apostles this way could have been the perception that two people working in sync towards the same goal carried more power and could persuade people most strongly. This coordination isn’t only successful but it continues God’s commandment in the Old Testament in the new covenant Jesus introduced.
You might be asking how you can do this today. Well, you don’t have to go door to door with another guy and witness for the gospel (although there’s nothing wrong with that!). This can be done at a local coffee shop or a lunch meeting. Think of a guy you are the closest to. Someone who you have the deepest connection with. They should be someone of strong character who will not cause you to stumble and fall in your faith. They should be on an equal or higher maturity level in their walk with Christ. With your willingness and their strength of faith, you two will make a great team!
What if you don’t have someone like that? Well, get plugged into a small group and I’m sure you’ll meet someone within the first few meetings. Meet with this guy on a weekly basis. Sometimes you might have in depth theological discussions while other times you might simply talk about your family or a difficulty you’re going through.
The Samson Society defines a “Silas” as a trustworthy companion for a season. Your Silas should encourage you to develop the daily disciplines of prayer, study and self examination. You abandon self help and instead look to others and God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself.
So with that ammunition, go out and find another guy who fits this description and together you will sharpen one another’s character, walk with Christ and you’ll become a better, more well rounded person.
Person to God Fellowship or Alone Time
Everybody needs some alone time. They need to defuse and block out all the interruptions and distractions of their day. This is more easily said than done especially with parents of young kids…I know! It doesn’t take very long. Just about 15 to 20 minutes of your day. Pick a time and a place. It could be your living room, your bedroom or a walk outside. Give that entire time to be by yourself without another person diverting your attention.
I like to listen to praise music or just walk alone silently. I meditate on God and feel entirely alone with just the two of us. Sometimes I want to be alone and end up reflecting about my life. Then it turns into a “thanking God” session. I think it’s so amazing that the Creator of the entire vast universe wants to spend one-on-one time with little ‘ol me! I am humbled that He is capable of doing that with anyone on earth who is willing to offer their time to Him.
Some people do this one-on-one time in the car on their way to work. Some do it as soon as they wake up. Some do it while they work out. Despite what method you use to do this, always remember one thing. Don’t only put God first in your day, make Him the center of your day. So many times, people say a prayer at breakfast or they’ll do their daily one-page devotional. Then they have God “crossed off” their list and they go on to other things. Instead of simply “crossing God” off your list, do that daily alone, one-on-one time with Him but also constantly include Him in your day. Be in a constant state of thankfulness and praise. Thank Him for the rain. Thank Him for the beautiful sunset. You can even thank Him for giving you a parking spot up front! Be grateful for every small aspect of your day. Ask Him for guidance and wisdom in your decisions. Pray for His strength when you feel weak and powerless. Take time to spend with yourself and your Creator and you will start to see the other layers of your life improve!
As I stated at the beginning of all this, if you practice all four of these fellowships, you will be a more versatile, flexible, adaptable, resourceful and well-rounded person. People will flock to you and wonder what your secret is. All you have to do is smile, wink and tell them to read this blog post!