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News and views from the German-language region of Europe

April 3, 2020

The branches are pruned

Filed under Sabbath Thoughts

In the United Church of God congregations in the USA, a survey was recently conducted which, among other things, looked at the "quality" of fellowship in the local congregations. The vast majority of the feedback on this topic was positive.

However, there was also feedback that pointed to shortcomings in local fellowship. The following is an excerpt from the summary of the report on these responses.

Realistically, we will always have members who are not as enthusiastic about their local fellowship as those quoted above. Undoubtedly, this is due to, perhaps, their equally valid perceptions of what they consider the case in their local congregation. Some believe there needs to be a greater depth of closeness and fellowship between members of the body of Christ. Some believe that our fellowship is too superficial and not as spiritually focused as it ought to be. Some have noted that some members and/or ministers are too political in their comments and approach. This reality is indicated in the following comments–and these comments underscore that there is room for improvement in how we interact with one another at our church services.

Some members believe local fellowship is lacking in love and too superficial:

"Fellowship tends to lack a strong spiritual focus. I do try to gently steer in that direction and at times have found good results. Other times, it seems many others do not feel comfortable discussing what they've been learning or studying."

"Deep down love for each other is a factor terribly missing at the congregational level and beyond. Sermons have even been given online to highlight this very issue, so clearly it is an aspect of fellowship within the church that requires addressing. Sermons are even given locally on the need to and importance of displaying more genuine love towards our brothers and sisters. Fellowship can be quite superficial."

"There are perhaps a handful of the brethren with whom I can have conversations that go beyond 'Hi, how was your week?' For a group that is supposed to be a spiritual family, conversations can be pretty superficial."

"Once in a GREAT while, and to some degree, members in our congregation help and support one another, but mostly we keep at arm's length and distant."

"Since we are all so scattered it is just hard to fill the need for real spiritual support that as Christians we are to supply to one another."

"I do not find the environment to be encouraging or supportive. There are members who are supportive of one another, but it is usually their own family members or their close friends."

"Some of the members support one another. You tend to have the same core group of people who show up and volunteer to serve. Many of the members do not. I understand everyone can't serve in all capacities, but we have a number of capable young adults/adults who never show up or volunteer."

Some members believe local fellowship is too political:

"The concern I see in some fellowship, in my opinion, is the trend towards overtly political discussions and the blending of involvement of secular politics and politicians in their overall Christian worldview."

(End of the summary)

On the last evening of his human life, Jesus said that he would prune the branches on the vine that bear fruit. We want to be those branches and not the ones that do not bear fruit and therefore will be burned.

As branches that bear fruit and are pruned by Christ, we can ask ourselves to what extent the above commentary also applies to our fellowship locally. Do we recognize similarities? If so, then we already have a goal for improvement for the new holy year, which has already begun, and on the 14th day of the first month we will hold the Passover next Tuesday evening.

With these thoughts I wish everyone a rewarding Sabbath!

Paul Kieffer's blog with personal insights and news from the German-language region in Europe.


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