Rediscover The Benefits of Being Together.
Remember back when churches regularly planned a gathering to have “dinner on the grounds?” I remember as a kid seeing long tables filled with what seemed like delicacies to my young appetite. It was amazing how much food came in as one lady after another brought in her dish. Before long, every table was full. Boy, those were the good ole’ days!
Have you noticed that porches have gotten smaller? Why is that? Could it be that the porch is no longer needed to welcome neighbors passing by or for families and friends to gather? Houses had wrap-around porches filled with chairs and swings. Now, they consist of a square piece of concrete with barely enough space for a potted plant.
Meaningful gatherings are becoming things of the past. Church people leave as soon as the last amen is heard. Family reunions are too much trouble. Dinner morphed into fast food take-out or sandwiches kids can make whenever they get hungry. The dining room table is used for everything but eating, so we don’t invite people to our homes. You might say, “Yes, but we go out to eat with friends.” That’s great, but how long do you spend together? An hour, maybe two if the waiting-in-line folks aren’t staring you down? Did the conversation get past the laughter and into deeper subjects like God or life issues? Was the music so loud you practically had to shout to be heard?
Believe me, I’m not knocking going out to eat. My husband and I do it every weekend. Not having to clean up the dishes is wonderful, but I hope you agree that restaurants aren’t the most conducive place for talking. A home is much more inviting and comfortable, you don’t have to be in a hurry, and there’s time for real fellowship to take place.
We’ve become separatists.
Guilty! I attend church, but I’ve been known to race out at the end. I love having people over, but lately, I’m content at home alone with my husband. Life is so hectic that by the end of the day all I want to do is give my mind a break and watch mindless TV shows. I zone out. I separate from society and choose not to engage because it might get messy or they might require something from me. Hidden away inside my little life, I lose all sense of the world outside my walls and don’t realize I’m becoming more self-centered, thinking only of my own wants and needs. Wow, that sounded really harsh, but I’m afraid it may very well be the truth. At least, that’s what I’m hearing from God for myself. Could it be true for you, as well?
Recently, I was listening to a lady talk about different items at an estate sale she was having. The estate came with a dining room table with seating for 12 and she made the statement, “That and china sets are some of the hardest things to get rid of because no one entertains anymore.” Translation: No one invites people over.
Life’s too busy!
Has life really gotten so busy that there’s no longer time for church fellowships, family reunions, or even just to have people over? Maybe it’s not busyness. Maybe we just don’t like people very much, not even our own families. We have lost the art of gathering and if we don’t rediscover the benefits of being together with family and friends, we will lose a precious and needful part of our existence.
We were created for fellowship with God.
Fellowship was God’s idea. He wants us to experience it with family and friends, our church family, and even the people we meet during the day. The book of Genesis reveals God didn’t want man to be alone, so God created a woman. In the cool of the evening, God walked in the garden to have fellowship with Adam and Eve. He told them to populate the earth; not so they could all go to their separate corners of the garden, but to be together. All through the Old Testament, we see glimpses of God’s people having feasts and festivals, gathering for food and celebration. Families lived together, worked together, and worshiped together.
Jesus loved to hang out.
As we move up the timeline, we see Jesus sharing meals with his friends and the people he came in contact with. He saw a tax collector named Zacchaeus up in a tree and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” Zacchaeus took Jesus to his home and they spent time together. As a result, Zacchaeus gave up his lifestyle of cheating and promised to pay back everyone he had stolen from (Luke 19:1-10).
One day after church, Jesus and his disciples gathered at Peter’s house, where Peter’s mother-in-law was sick with a fever (Mark 1:29-31). Jesus healed the mother-in-law and the Bible says she got up and served them, most probably a meal. We see him spending time with his friends, Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus and later, Jesus showing up to raise Lazarus from the dead (Luke 10:38-42 and John 11:1-46). Jesus intentionally came together with groups as small as 1 and as large as thousands. People were healed, fed, loved on, and given the opportunity to know Jesus not only as Savior, but as a friend (John 15:15). The people received great benefits from being together with Jesus.
We were created for gathering with others.
The early Christians also enjoyed fellowship together. Acts 2:42-47 tells us:
“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
Rediscover the benefits of being together.
Can you imagine living like this? From those verses in Acts, let’s take a look at all the benefits they received from gathering together.
- They learned to hunger for godly teaching.
- They developed a desire to fellowship with others.
- There was opportunity to share communion together to remember Jesus’ death and soon return.
- In their gatherings, many wonders and signs were performed, such as miracles of healing.
- They were mindful of everyone’s basic needs and out of their abundance shared so that no one went hungry.
- Being together produced glad and sincere hearts of love toward each other and God, who gave them favor among all the people.
- And finally, they loved others who didn’t know God and invited them into their gatherings. God saved those who made a decision to follow Him because of what they learned from God’s people.
It’s a lifestyle, not an event.
This doesn’t all happen during 1-2 hours on Sunday morning or 1-2 hours in a restaurant. It takes a lifestyle consisting of gathering together for teaching, sharing meals, and getting into those deeper conversations about life and God. Am I preaching to myself? Absolutely and I am making plans to correct my ways. It may take me a while to get over the excuses I use such as my house isn’t clean enough, my cooking isn’t good enough, or I’m too tired, but change I will with God’s help and strength!
How about you? Have you lost the art of gathering with your family and friends? Why don’t you uncover that dining table and invite some people over. If you don’t cook, Sam’s Club sells a great frozen lasagna that you simply heat up. Throw together a salad and make some tea! If you don’t want to clean up, use paper plates. Then, set some chairs out on your porch and get to know your neighbors. With a few simple steps, we can bring back the good ole’ days and rediscover the benefits of being together!
Until next time,
For help in discovering your giftings, read my article called Southern Hospitality From The North.