The following is a guest post by Michelle Earl, beloved wife and best friend of Joshua Earl. On occasion we are featuring the thoughts and encouragement of our wives so you can get to know who they are and who it is that supports us every day in this church planting venture.
“Through fellowship one’s soul is refreshed and fed…to have God’s children praying for you, caring for you as a fellow believers and sharing their experiences of trial and triumph with you brings vast enrichment.”
What I could have said in many words, Mr. J. I. Packer eloquently waxed in one rich and descriptive sentence. Fellowship is a profound element of our Christian life, and it is more than sharing a meal (although that is one of my favorite parts). Its effects could be described as monumental; a refreshed soul is something I often need. To be vastly enriched? Yes, please! The greatest thing, perhaps, is that the soul-feeding effects of fellowship ripple down and touches your spouse, children, co-workers, and those whom you live with. When your soul is fed and you are cared for, others will be edified, too.
Personally, I have a strong tendency to go down and in. In a given day, this often looks like too much self examination and assuming everyone else has it together while I am over here just heating up my coffee for the third time, only to find it in the microwave at 5:30pm. Keeping other people in my life, regularly meeting and exhorting, sharing our hearts, burdens, and struggles, and bearing with one another just reorients me to live more aware of others and more aware of God. When he was writing the above quote I think Mr. Packer was possibly thinking of Hebrews 10:24, which says, “And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, but encouraging one another…”
During our last season in Louisville both Andrea and I learned much about fellowship, but I am safely aware that I have only scratched the surface. I learned what confession looks like (even the ugly stuff), sharing your heart (being vulnerable), and caring for others (after the meeting is over). I’ve learned through all those practices that since the cross is a place where sins are forgiven and we are accepted by God through faith in Christ, fellowship can be full of grace and truth. Where Christ’s substitutionary death becomes the very foundation upon which I build, it becomes a safe place where there is no room for judgment (i.e. “I can’t believe she/he does that!”) or pride (i.e. “I would never do that,” or worse, “MY KID would never do that!”). Best part of all this confessing is that we have Christ living inside of us, and by His Spirit we are able to change. We are able over time to look less like us and more like Jesus. And the people who will see this change most are the ones we have been regularly meeting with, praying for, and encouraging. I think that this is the “vast enrichment” Packer mentioned.
So, as Andrea eluded to in her last post, we have already been regularly meeting twice a month with an intentional focus. With her gifted vision casting and sweet administrative heart, Andrea excitedly put together a schedule of what we would come prepared to talk about each month (and we often insert plenty of funny, mom-brained, rabbit trails). FYI, every church plant needs an Andrea! We are using Melissa Kruger’s “Three Questions Series,” then caring for each other throughout the week with follow up questions, prayer, and encouragement. In January we discussed spiritual growth and patience, and this coming month we will cover the Word and humility.
We also have put together loose book lists of what we would be reading this year. As a very wise woman once told us, the Word has to be in you before it can go through you. A regular diet of biblical truths will not only enrich our own hearts but also help us to better minister to others as we prepare to church plant. Sharing these lists with each other help us to stay on track and be focused. I say “loose book lists” because, you know, #MOMLIFE. Kids get sick, babies don’t sleep, sometimes there is not enough hours in the day, and 5th grade math threatens to drop your kid off at the nearest public school. At the end of the day there is no condemnation when we don’t get things done, just helpful tools that will keep us focused as lives get busy.
Speaking of life getting busy, it is 2018, which means this is the year we move to ILM (that’s the fancy abbreviation for Wilmington). These regular rhythms of fellowship and accountability are in place now so as we transition we have an established place to be enriched, encouraged, and real – a rhythm that feels like home before Wilmington might – a rhythm that could be a context for us to invite other woman who are in need of fellowship and a safe place, just like us. Fellowship is a place for ministry. It is a place, like Mr. Packer said so well, to share both trial and triumph. Lord, let it be!
– Michelle, for the Two Guys Wives
Verses to consider that stir up desire for fellowship:
- Hebrews 10:24-25: “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
- James 5:16: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
- Galatians 6:2: “Bear one another’s burdens and so fufill the law of Christ.”
- Hebrews 3:13: “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.”