How to focus fellowship

Having the same mind and judgement


23. October 2019By Karsten Risseeuw13 Minutes

The big question for any pioneering church is: How can we create and maintain fellowship? Both Jesus and Paul had stressed the issue of unity. What did they have in mind?

Diverse, yet with the same mindset

Jesus explained His disciples they should be one, just as He and the Father are one (John 17:1-11). That is a high goal, but it sets the standard. Paul deals with the most chaotic fellowship in the Greek city of Corinth. He urges them to have “the same mind and judgement” (1Corinthians 1:10-17). That is valuable input we can explore.

“Becoming one” is not to be confused with “erasing personality”. The disciples were different persons, but they were attuned to the same thing. Each of us is unique, but we can have our hearts attuned to the same things of importance. While thinking differently, we can still have the same mindset.

Here is the idea: We are the community. It is never about the church. It’s about the people and what unites them. It’s about what gives hope and outlook, about what fills our hearts with joy and gratefulness and boundless curiosity. If we pursue a goal together, what is pushing us and what are we pushing for?

To become aware of what we’d like to be is an important process. Your voice is important. Your input adds up to the community. We might differ on certain topics, but we can nevertheless have the same outlook and vision, the same attitude and mindset. Mindset is a cool word. It explains something the German has no word for. One could probably think of «Denksinn». It is not just thinking, it’s what you and I have in mind. It is what our minds have been “set” to.

Sharing a vision and goal

Paul expressed his desire that the believers in Corinth should have “the same judgement”. He is not talking about being judgemental, but he is referring to the skill of thinking. We should know how to think. And even more, we should know how to love with a sound mind. In this regard, we should have “the same judgement” or understanding.

Pointing this out, it becomes clear that we no longer can look upon church as a place where we are being served, but as a place where we serve. Much of this is resulting from the values we have and share:

  • valuing people
  • valuing our shared calling by the grace of God
  • valuing what others can do what you yourself can’t
  • valuing fellowship and choosing to be part of it
  • valuing change, growth and learning.

You are not coming to church

Many of us are used to the idea that the churches are the building and traditions you come to. It is the place where you can come and sit and sing along. That is all wonderful, but it not the essence. The essence is: We are the church. It is about us, about those sharing the same calling, vision and outlook. We create, we thrive, we win or lose and nobody is doing this for us unless we do it ourselves.

Actually, this is a pretty sober standpoint. There is nothing standing between us and reality. We are and “live” reality. We are part of the body of Christ, this worldwide community which exists since 2000 years. The question is, how we can be and become a living and thriving community in the best way possible?

Coming to church is something else as being the church.

Adjusting and enabling

“I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.”
1Corinthians 1:10 (English Standard Version)

When Paul writes “be united”, he is pointing to a process of change. The Greek word here is katartizo, which means “to adjust, attune or to make fit for a purpose”.

In Matthew 4:21 we read about Jesus, Who is walking along the shores of the Sea of Galilea, calling out his disciples. There he found John and James with their father Zebedee sitting along the waterfront, adjusting their nets, as they were fishers. The nets were made fit for fishing. Adjusting can be seen as adding what is missing to make fit for a purpose.

“And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending (gr. katartizo) their nets, and he called them.

In 1Thessalonians 3:10 the apostle Paul expressed his hope to see the Thessalonians that he could help adjust the deficiencies of their faith. Paul wanted to enable the Thessalonians to fulfil their calling: to fulfil, to make complete, to fill out the gaps, to attune their minds and hopes and understanding.

“…as we pray most earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply (gr. katartizo) what is lacking in your faith.”

To adjust and to make fit for a purpose is not meant to bend you to a breaking point, or to squeeze you into some strange form, but to help you realize your own god-given potential – within, with and for the community. Its goal is to strengthen everyone.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, yet everyone who is adjusted (gr. katartizo) will be as his teacher.”
Luke 6:40

Growth and true spiritual life

Growth and true spiritual life are in view. Paul writes to the community in Corinth in which disorder and chaos were rampant, yet he envisions a truly spiritual community. He envisioned people with a sound mind and a sound faith, expressing their faith not in strifes, but in a healthy focus on reality. The truth was: They already had received everything (1Corinthians 1:4-7). There was no deficiency.

How was Paul dealing with these issues? He trusted God. A few lines earlier he wrote:

“Faithful is God, through Whom you were called into the fellowship of His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.” (1Corinthians 1:9)

Central for any fellowship is Gods calling. Paul points that out clearly. It is not about denominations, not about special teachings or anything like that. These cause strifes. It is rather about the acknowledgement of grace, of the same calling, of the good things we all have received already. God is faithful in working this out in us. Trust Him, “be one” in that trust.

Attuned to the same mind and the same opinion

Another translation of the Greek katartizo is “to attune”. It expresses the same thing. We should be attuned to the same mind and the same opinion. While everyone plays its “own tune”, we nevertheless can be “in tune” with the overall musical composition. We can play our own tune in a way that is in harmony with a larger purpose.

“Now I am entreating you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all may be saying the same thing, and there may be no schisms among you, but you may be attuned to the same mind and to the same opinion.”
1Corinthians 1:10 (Concordant Literal New Testament)

That is as valid today as it was 2000 years ago. It is how a community works. The community, that is us. Spiritually we lack nothing. We can discover together, share the same outlook, be encouraged by the same God and Father, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. These are the basics of church.

How do we focus our fellowship? Encourage each other to have the same mindset and the same judgement. Talk about it. Share values.

This post is based on a sermon, held by Karsten Risseeuw at ASPC St. Gallen at october 20th, 2019.

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