The wonderful world of tomorrow draws near. Very soon, a war-weary, shell-shocked mankind will look to righteous leaders to teach the way that produces lasting peace.
You and other brethren have been called to become future kings, priests and judges in the soon-coming kingdom of God. You have been personally drafted into God’s special “leadership training program”—the daily trials, tests and triumphs of being a Christian in Satan’s world—preparing you to become a servant and leader.
Describing how the world defines leadership, Jesus said, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors” (Luke 22:25). Historically, many rulers of Egypt and Syria did assume the title “benefactor” in an effort to portray themselves as champions of the people—yet they were nothing more than ruthless tyrants.
Christ went on to reveal what true leadership is: “He that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that does serve. For which is greater, he that sits at meat [at the table, being served], or he that serves? Is not he that sits at meat? But I am among you as he that serves” (vs. 26-27).
In the world, where people exercise authority over others, it is usually harsh, and ultimately selfish, even in the best of circumstances. The world’s brand of leadership is fueled by vanity, self-exaltation and glory-seeking, in which talent and ability are cherished over character and true values. This is the reason why sports figures, entertainers and other personalities—who are virtually deified—are excused for their bad behavior.
For those who know God’s truth, this should come as no surprise. Originally, the archangel Lucifer was the most talented, creative being God had ever created. But Lucifer’s abilities went to his head—he focused on the greatness of his talents rather than using those talents God’s way. No wonder carnal-minded mankind, as influenced by the “prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2), glorifies talent over true values!
God defines true leadership as serving others—looking out for their needs and best interests, especially those in the Church. We are reminded of this every year during the Passover footwashing ceremony—that in order to follow Christ’s perfect example, we must be willing to “get down on our knees” and take on the lowly and least-appreciated tasks to help and serve the brethren, especially in what they need most: Staying on track toward being born into God’s kingdom.
Areas of Service
There are many ways, areas, roles and functions in which you can serve others.
However, not everyone can serve as an elder or deacon. Not everyone can give sermons or sermonettes. Not everyone can serve on the Headquarters staff, writing articles for THE PILLAR, The Real Truth and AMBASSADOR YOUTH magazines, designing and managing our websites, answering Church-related letters and e-mails, conducting counseling visits, etc. Not everyone can serve by songleading, performing special music, giving opening and closing prayers, providing rides to and from services for brethren who lack transportation, presenting the Church announcements, providing after-services snacks, setting up and tearing down the meeting hall for Sabbath services, operating the sound equipment, visiting the sick.
But there is one area in which ALL brethren can serve each other: Through the simple act of fellowship! Have you ever considered that fellowshipping among brethren is an act of service—that you can use it as a tool of service and leadership?
Mastering the Art of Fellowship
In the New Testament, the Greek word for “fellowship” is koinonia. It means “partnership, participation, benefaction” and “the close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them.” When brethren fellowship together, they are participating in a spiritual partnership based on walking “steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship” (Acts 2:42).
In Psalm 133:1, King David was inspired to write, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity”! Harmony among the brethren pleases God. And, fueled by brotherly love, such harmony can only exist in the Church when God’s people are unified in doctrine and fellowship.
The Bible pictures fellowshipping as “iron sharpening iron” (Prov. 27:17). It is an instrument everyone can use to help build, encourage and strengthen our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ.
If you want to learn to exercise this vital tool of service and leadership with the care and precision of a godly king, judge and priest, then keep reading.
“Be Swift to Hear, Slow to Speak”
The apostle James wrote, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to wrath” (1:19). This is not a suggestion—it is a biblical command.
There are some people who speak first, and listen later (if ever). You know the type. They constantly talk, talk, talk—TALK—without giving others a chance to contribute to the conversation. Those on the listening end who do manage to slip in a few words are immediately cut off, to be bombarded by the next 15 to 20 minutes of seemingly endless chatter.
But read Proverbs 10: “In the multitude of words there wants [ceases] not sin: but he that refrains his lips is wise” (vs. 19).
If you truly want to serve others, listen to them—give them your ear. There are times when people are so distressed that all they may want—need—is for someone to intently listen to them. In some cases, after venting their frustrations, the solution they need will come to them—without you even saying a word!
On the other hand, there are some who say very little. Ask them how their week went, or what they thought about the sermon they just heard, or just about any other question, and their response is usually one or two syllables: “Good.” “Okay.” “Just fine.” And that is as far as their end of the conversation will go.
If either of these descriptions fits you, use balance. Listen first, and strive to have something to contribute to the conversation.
Another way you can serve is through your smile and laughter. Show your warmth, especially when fellowshipping before and after Sabbath services. Let your joyful attitude be a roaring bonfire for brethren who feel beaten down by sore trials. Your positive example can help them to remember Philippians 4: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things” (vs. 8).
Some people are not naturally warm and outgoing. If this is you, ask God to grow His fruit of joy within you (Gal. 5:22-33). But when you do, be ready to step out and take action—you won’t know that He has answered your prayer until you walk out in faith and put what you have asked for into practice!
When you do speak, do so in the spirit of Proverbs 18:13 and hear the whole matter before giving an answer. Offer your words with wisdom and forethought.
Serve others by being swift to hear and slow to speak.
Rejoice, Weep With Others
The apostle Paul wrote, “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Rom. 12:15). Again, this is not a suggestion—it is a biblical command. Each of us is responsible for caring for God’s sheep (John 15:12). This includes giving others our affection.
When a member gets a new job after months of being unemployed, or a baby is born into the Church, or a family who has scrimped and saved finally manages to buy their first house—rejoice with them! Celebrate! Show your enthusiasm! Share in their delight!
Conversely, sympathize with others when things go wrong in their lives (the loss of a job, the death of a family member, etc.).
However, this does not mean that we should go to extremes and break out in uncontrollable fits of anguish (the churches of the world do that). But we should show compassion, using godly wisdom to listen, console and encourage brethren—serve them—in their time of need (I Pet. 3:8).
Serve others by rejoicing and sympathizing with them.
“The Weak” and “Feeble-Minded”
In these perilous times of false doctrines, accusations, lies and betrayals, many brethren have become spiritually weak. We must be ready and able to serve those who manage to anoint their eyes and come with The Restored Church of God.
How? By “bearing the infirmities of the weak” (Rom. 15:1) and receiving “him that is weak in the faith…but not to doubtful disputations” (14:1). By not judging—not condemning—the weak in faith or looking down on them (vs. 10). By not putting “a stumblingblock or an occasion [cause] to fall in his brother’s way” (vs. 13). By taking “heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak” (I Cor. 8:9). And by “abstaining from all appearance of evil” (I Thes. 5:22).
Serve the spiritually weak through patience, gentleness and longsuffering. Let your example lead them toward the kingdom of God.
Now let’s be frank. Throughout the long history of God’s Church there have been some brethren who are a little quirky. A bit eccentric. Somewhat odd. Rather than shunning such people, we should seek to “comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men” (vs. 14).
Remember: God has not called the Bill Gates and Michael Jordans of the world. He calls the foolish—the weak—the base—the things which are despised—the things which are not (I Cor. 1:26-29). That includes you. Keep this in mind the next time you fellowship with those whom you may view as “weak” and “feeble-minded.”
Serve them with gentle words rooted in wisdom and patience.
Foolish Talking and Jesting
James 3:6-12 shows that “the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity…” Sooner or later, people will say the wrong things. Sometimes the wrong words accidentally slip out. It just happens.
Sometimes, this is done out of ignorance. Some people have no clue that their conversation is rude and distasteful. This happens often in the world and, from time to time, it appears in the Church.
When this happens to you, serve others by giving them the benefit of the doubt. Rise above the impulse to “jump all over” them. Forgive and forget. Let it go.
On the other hand, there may be times when you should intervene, especially if what was said becomes a trial for other brethren.
Paul warned the Ephesians not to let filthiness (obscenity), foolish talking, or jesting (coarse joking) to “be once named among you, as become saints” (Eph. 5:3-4). He also wrote, “But now you also put off all these…blasphemy [slander, malicious talk], filthy communication out of your mouth” (Col. 3:8).
There comes a time when you must speak up, to help restore people from going astray and get them back on track (Gal. 6:1). But before you act, ask God for His wisdom and understanding to guide you in how you should address the situation. Ask Him to show you what to say and how and when to say it.
Serve others by bearing their burdens, faults and weaknesses (vs. 2), and by knowing when and how to respond to the wrong kinds of communication.
Turn the Other Cheek
Even the closest of friendships can stumble into times of misunderstanding and hurt feelings. If friendships between brethren are like beautiful, sweet-smelling roses, remember that thorns come with them!
What if a Church member personally offends you, wrongs you, or mistakenly accuses you of wrongdoing—what should you do?
Take the lead. Be a leader who serves. This may mean turning “the other cheek” (Matt. 5:38-42)—“rather taking wrong” (I Cor. 6:7)—“suffering yourselves to be defrauded” (same verse).
Yes, this is easier said than done. Then again, if turning the other cheek were easy, it would not be a test! The whole point of being a true Christian is to overcome fiery trials and tests, which help you to build God’s holy, righteous character.
Focus on the “big picture.” Recognize that, in the overarching Plan of God, it is far more important that you do what is right than it is to vigorously proclaim that you are in the right.
The devil is actively looking for opportunities to bring chaos and strife into the Church. Turning the other cheek can prevent this by promoting peace and unity among the brethren.
Serve others by “suffering yourselves to be defrauded,” thereby bringing peace to God’s Church.
Various Ways to Fellowship
Young or old, married or widowed, attending a sizeable local congregation or a congregation of only one—everyone can fellowship. Whether face-to-face, over the phone, by letter or by e-mail, it does not matter as long as you establish (as previously mentioned) a “close association between persons, emphasizing what is common between them.”
During the Feast of Tabernacles, make it your personal mission to talk with everyone. And especially be on the lookout for those who attend Sabbath services alone during the rest of the year.
If you attend services alone and are able to make it to God’s Feast, then you should try to get to know all the attendees. Exchange phone numbers and other contact information so that you can continue to fellowship throughout the rest of the year.
If you attend alone and cannot attend a Feast site, you can still fellowship. In the weekly Announcement Bulletins, there are prayer requests, birth announcements, etc., with contact information. Send cards of encouragement, and letters that show that you care. Use this as an opportunity to reach out and serve the brethren. Kind words can truly make a difference in one’s attitude.
Here at RCG Headquarters, we receive many inspiring, encouraging letters and cards of thanks. (These letters show so much zeal, they almost catch on fire!) Such notes and cards serve to inspire us—drive us—in doing the Work and feeding the flock. We truly appreciate these acts of fellowship.
As you see, fellowshipping is far more than having simple conversations with other brethren. It is a tool that we all can use to build ourselves and others into dynamic, seasoned, effective servants and leaders in the world tomorrow.