Thom and Joani Schultz, founders of Christian mega-publishers Group Publishing, released a book back in 2004 that was supposed to change the way many churches "did church." All of the reviews and commentators said it was going to be a "gamechanger" (my words, not theirs). The release of The 1 Thing was very well publicized and many of us involved in ministry couldn't wait to read it. What was the one thing people were craving? What was missing from their experiences within their bodies of believers? What was it that kept everyone, believers and nonbelievers alike, coming back for more? The 1 Thing promised to let us all in on that secret.
I recommend reading it, especially if you're in any type of leadership within your church, but the main point of The 1 Thing was totally right, and ahead of its time in many ways. The one thing that everyone was looking for was friendship. They were all looking for authentic relationships. Sitting in a pew and listening to a powerful, convicting sermon is great, but people were (and still are) wanting more. They needed something else to be connected to our churches and challenged to lead authentic lives for Christ. Relationships with other believers made the difference. "Hey, how are you? I'm fine. How are you?" That kind of "relationship" wasn't cutting it anymore. People were craving authenticity, and that sort of interaction is far from authentic.
Fast forward to today's church scene. Many churches have replaced a weekly service time with small groups, life groups, etc. to fill that void. Sure, the group itself doesn't fill that void, but it gives a group of people a chance to dive into The Word and build authentic relationships. I know lots of people involved in small groups in their churches and I see something new in them. Through these groups, relationships have been formed. They're encouraging one another and they're truly a part of each other's lives. My friends are fulfilled; their vibrancy spills over into every area of their lives. It's amazing to see! I can't say that The 1 Thing is solely responsible for this shift, but I totally believe that it brought awareness and a reminder that we are relational beings.
The point today is that we are to make sure we can offer the one thing. When I see Acts 2:42:-7, something really stands out to me.
"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."
What stands out to me is that they weren't only devoted to learning. They were devoted to fellowship and being together as much as possible. This short passage refers to togetherness several times. It tells us that they were together, meeting each day, and doing whatever it took to help those in need. Shouldn't that be our model? This alone should tell us that there's got to be more to church than listening to a sermon each week. You're not meant to do this alone!
Churches are so different today; it would be naive to think that the example in Acts 2 would look the same within every modern church body. Whether it's in small groups, Sunday School, or something totally different, find a way to offer authentic friendship through your church today. Find a way to give fellow believers what they've been missing. How can you make sure your church is offering authentic relationships? The beginning is always the first place to start, right? That means it starts with you (and me), making every effort to build something real, an authentic relationship through Christ. It's obviously easier to do with the folks you've know for most of your life. Do it where it counts: find that person who needs you. Do whatever it takes to get rid of the "I'm fine...How are you" status quo.
"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: What! You too? I thought I was the only one." ~C.S. Lewis