Every Friday night our church hosts a youth floor hockey outreach at John MacWilliam Public School in our neighborhood. It attracts kids 9 to 13 years old from both our church and the surrounding community. We have several dads playing as well with the youth. It is a great time of floor hockey and good friendship. I also have been sharing at halftime the personal testimonies of different professional Christian athletes.
We have heard of the Christian testimonies of players like Gordon Hayward, Drew Brees, Mike Fisher and many more. In several of these players’ lives, the fellowship of other Christian athletes has been absolutely vital in their walk with the Lord. The stories of Mike Fisher and Drew Brees are typical of how the Lord was able to work in these athletes’ lives.
Christian Fellowship Is Vital
Both guys grew up in Christian homes and made personal commitments to Christ as a kid or as a teenager. As they left home to play Junior hockey (Fisher) or went away to college to play football (Brees), they tended to drift away from their Christian commitment. When they reached the professional ranks, it was the chapel ministry of their pro teams that brought them back to a renewed walk with Jesus. The combination of the pastoral ministry of a team chaplain and the mentorship of older Christian teammates were used by the Lord in these younger athletes’ lives in a powerful way.
My wife for several years was a staff worker for Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship at the University of Windsor. In her role as a staff worker for IVCF, she was very much like a chaplain to the Christian students at the University. I heard my wife say many times: “When Christian students, especially out-of-town students, connected with a group like Inter Varsity, it made a tremendous difference in their walk with the Lord.” The spiritual casualty rate was much lower in the lives of those Christians who regularly fellowshiped with other believers.
We shouldn’t be surprised that this is the case in the Christian life. In Hebrews 3:12-14, we read these words:
See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first.
Both personal experience and the Christian Scriptures testify to the need for close and meaningful relationships with fellow believers.
This involves more than just coming to church and spending an hour at the worship service each week, and then going home right away. It means intentionally getting to know fellow Christians and learning to trust one another. This can be through the fellowship time after church or a small group experience, like a Sunday School class or a Bible Study group.
It is when we really get to know one another and learn to trust one another that we can begin bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging and exhorting each other, praying for one another and even admonishing one another. We are called to community as followers of Jesus Christ. We are joined to Him by faith and love and joined together by His Holy Spirit.
A Personal Testimony
I have lived in Toronto three different times. Once as a child with my parents and twice as an adult. My two experiences as an adult varied widely. The first time I lived in the big city was as a 22 year-old and a recent graduate from the University of Windsor with a Bachelor of Commerce. I was able to get a job with a big company right in the heart of Toronto. I was not a Christian at this time.
At first I enjoyed Toronto but I eventually became very lonely. I had a lot of young friends at the firm I was working at. But it seemed like we spent most of our time together at the bar drinking. At first it was fun, but then it started wearing thin. I got sick of the bar scene and sick of how impersonal a big city could be, especially when you had no family around.
The second time I ended up in Toronto was a year after my conversion to Christ. I attended Ontario Theological Seminary (OTS) in North York.(OTS is now called Tyndale University and College.) My experience of the big city this time was as different as night and day to my prior experience. I lived in dorm and became friends with all sorts of people.
I did a 3-year pastoral internship at a great church in Richmond Hill. I learned to pray with other more mature believers. We got involved in all kinds of outreach, including taking unchurched teens skiing to Barrie Ontario and to Lake Placid, New York. Seniors at the church always had me in their homes feeding me wonderful meals. It was a great place to grow as a young Christian. Pastor Doug Sargent mentored me and taught me to study the Scripture. He gave a great example of what it meant to be a Pastor with a shepherd’s heart.
My experience of Toronto and of my own humanity was so very different in these two time periods. There was a richness to my stay the second time around. The fellowship of Christian brothers and sisters made all the difference in the world. God was able to communicate His grace and presence through other believers. I not only survived the big city but I thrived in the big city as a follower of Jesus.
QOTD: Are you personally and actively involved in a local body of Christian believers?