As a church fellowship made up of believers, their families, and those seeking to find out more about a real and vital faith in Jesus and how it can impact a life, our neatly ordered and perhaps predictable world has undergone severe upheaval during the last months of lockdown and restrictions. Hard though this time has been, we also have much to still be thankful for – the amazing and unaltered love of God our faithful and good Heavenly Father, the blessing of knowing him personally, finding His Word freely available on printed page, on our phone or tablet. The privilege of having a faithful Pastor and Teacher in Richard, the technology to record and transmit our meetings and gatherings into homes and to worship in this way that many are now accustomed to, the blessings we enjoy every single day – food on our tables, clean water and secure shelter, and the list goes on…
At the beginning of this year, we considered how we could “spur each other on” in the words of Hebrews 10. 24,25 and how, in spite of the limitations we are living under, we can encourage one another in our faith.
Two Fellowship groups were started, meeting virtually twice a month to study the Book of James. We are using a wonderful resource by Sam Allberry “James for You” as reference as we work through about eight verses of James’ letter each time, which leaves plenty of time to speak words of encouragement and comfort and enjoy real fellowship around God’s Word.
As we are halfway through this series, we thought it would be good to get some feedback from some of our friends that have been attending these virtual gatherings and to see how they are going. So, we asked several questions and here are some of the thoughts so far.
How have you found meeting online rather than in homes?
“I enjoy the online meetings although I have found them very different from meeting face to face in people’s homes. But in the current situation we find ourselves in it is a very good alternative to having no meetings at all. We can all still talk amongst ourselves and discuss things. The personal touch and atmosphere remains although being a technophobe I do find it strange talking into a computer. Maybe I am just a bit old fashioned but I am happy to continue with the online meetings. Colin and Adrian manage them very well and everyone gets a chance to speak and participate. I like the pace that we go at. Sometimes the discussions go so well that we run over time. In a nutshell I would like them to continue. I enjoy listening to other peoples views on what is being studied. Even in the future in post pandemic times the online meetings could still take place in times of severe weather when we are snowed in or something similar.”
“Meeting online was part of the new normal and although I missed the interaction and chat over a coffee before we began, finding out what was going on in each others lives, I found the group discussions most helpful. In a way, it did feel as if we were meeting together and it was great to see other faces and study the passages as a group.”
How have you benefited from studying alongside others?
“Studying together, alongside others in the group has been so beneficial as it gave me the connection with my church family which was otherwise missing. It gave me the accountability which has been important for me, as often I have felt far from the church community and from the support and intentionality which meeting together gives. Hearing the teaching which others have taken from the passages gave me instruction which I would otherwise have missed during my own reading and study, while the explanations and guidance from our group leader has been vital to our online fellowship experience, with much preparation and thought having gone into both content and presentation.“
Can you tell us about anything you have read in James so far that resonates with you in your own life?
“What I have gotten out of the book of James is that I must use the Bible’s teachings more to steer me better in my day to day life. It is not enough just to go to Church and believe in God. We have to live our day to day lives according to the Bible. James covers this so well. I feel that I now have a better understanding of the meaning of the verses studied and this has been due to the group meetings rather than me trying to work out the meanings of the verses myself. After each meeting I feel like I have gotten something of real value from the meeting as well as having learned something. Something that I can continue to think about a bit more over the next few days and if necessary put into practice.”
So, if this sounds like something you would enjoy and benefit from, do consider joining one of the groups and keep a look out for some more sessions that will be run like this. The important thing considering all that has been said above and the sentiment in Hebrews 10 is that we use this opportunity made possible by the technology God has blessed us with, to join ourselves together and share what God has been doing in our lives.
Do google ‘James For You’ in the meantime. It is not a commentary and does not assume a high level of biblical knowledge. Its aim is to help us to open up this wonderful little book of James and direct us to the One that he is pointing to. And a massive thank you to the leaders of these groups who put in a lot of hard work behind the scenes in preparation and facilitating meaningful conversations.