According to the Apostle Paul, a Christian congregation is a fellowship of the Holy Spirit, also called the body of Christ. In his letters to the early churches, he had many words of encouragement for those first believed. Offering his observations was participating in the Spirit’s work of building up relationships in a specific fellowship.
A key question for any Christian congregation today is how well their fellowship of believers offers others encouragement for living out their individual relationship with God in their daily relationships with others. Some churches delegate that job to the pastor. Healthy churches share that function in individual conversations.
“Mutual conversation and encouragement” was a key concept in Martin Luther’s understanding of church life. He even listed it as a fifth means of grace, a very lofty status right up there with Word and sacraments. But you won’t find much of such mutual encouragement in traditional churches. One of my pet peeves about the church life I experienced in a lifetime of Lutheran congregations is that I found little of such “God talk” beyond the formal worship service. Most conversations seemed to be the same “small talk” you could hear in any other social setting.Read More