ODG 5- Leslie Weatherhead- Fellowship

Walking through the streets of Truro, in England, I was on the hunt for old books.  We found a thrift store that just so happened to have a few shelves of old books.   I had heard the name Weatherhead before, but that was all.  The title of his book “The Transforming Friendship” leaped out at me off of the bookshelf, and a few British Pounds later I was reading my new find. 
He quotes our friends, F.W. Boreham, George MacDonald etc, but as I was reading I felt I had reconnected with an old, old friend who asked similar questions of tradition and purpose.  The more of Weatherhead I’ve read the more I appreciate his way of asking hard questions first then bringing it back to the simplicity of Friendship with Jesus.  
The following excerpt is from his 1934 book Discipleship- Fellowship Chapter.  Notice how right he was in seeing the need for small groups (fellowship groups).  He also gives the best definition I’ve ever read, and the most simple about the difference between the shepherd and the hireling.  I hope he becomes one of your ODG friends too!


“Fellowship is a living intercourse between personalities.”
“The sustained will to live the life of fellowship, despite any coldness or crankiness that tends to chill or break spiritual unity, is the foundation of the church’s life and is bound in the long run to achieve the end desired.”
—Basil Mathews and Harry Bisseker.

Chapter IV

Christian fellowship began when Jesus called twelve men “that they might be with him.”(Mark 3:14) He called them not only for their sakes but for his own sake. He could give them something invaluable, but every one of them could give him something. From that beginning all other Christian fellowships, down to the latest group, have developed. For the sake of humble, shy, and modest folk I want to emphasize that every one of them could give him something that he needed. For the incarnation reveals, among many other rich things, this: that God’s humility is so complete that he has made the lowliest of us necessary to himself.

And this note of fellowship is one of the most important in the Christian life. For a person thrown up on a desert island no doubt compensations are possible, but the normal life of the Christian is a life of fellowship. A normal and full Christian life cannot be lived alone. Again and again we hear this note in the Gospels. The shepherd leaves the ninety and nine that he may seek for the one which is needed in order to complete the fellowship, and the Good Shepherd is distinguished from the hireling by his love for the fellowship. The climax to the story of the prodigal is his restoration to fellowship, and the sin of the elder brother is that he will not join the fellowship. A disciple is one who enters the fellowship; is no longer called servant but friend, and so long as man possesses a herd instinct, which is to say as long as man is man, he will never find his maximum strength in anything outside fellowship. Almost every important movement in the world is recognizing this fact, and we notice fellowship groups springing up everywhere. “The lack of fellowship,” says William Morris, “is hell.” The lack of fellowship in marriage means unhappiness and perhaps divorce. The lack of fellowship in the home accounts for one of the greatest social menaces of our time: homes which are not really unities and which are used by young people merely as dormitories. The lack of fellowship in business leads to strikes and lockouts, and the lack of fellowship between nations makes war. In every phase of life we find illustrations of that old saying, “The strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
Fellowship is essential in the life of the church. Without it the individual fails and the church, as a whole, is robbed of its power. There was one terrible night when the fellowship which Jesus called together broke down. They all forsook him and fled. And the miracle of Pentecost is understood best when we realize not merely the marvelous things that happened, but watch a fellowship that was broken being restored and made new. They became one in a new sense, in a new way, and with a new power. And one sometimes allows one’s mind to try to imagine what would happen if the fellowship, now broken by the disunion of the churches, actually became one once more. Such a union, one imagines, will not be by argument or by many conferences. We shall become one where the first Christian fellowship started—at the feet of Christ. When all the churches regard it as their first joyous duty to offer Christ to the world, and change people’s lives, and leave them to make their own creeds out of their experiences, we shall find a new unity, a new fellowship, and a new power. I welcome the Oxford Group Movement on this ground also, that I believe it can make the greatest contribution to the reunion of the churches in our generation. One saw signs of this at the recent Oxford House Party, where between four and five thousand people, of almost every denomination in Christendom, were gathered together at the feet of Christ, seeking the new life that he offers and concerned to pass it on, and unconcerned, at any rate for the moment, with theology, the consideration of orders, and the differences in their creeds. It is said that Nelson came on board his battleship on one occasion and found two officers quarreling, and he rebuked them with the sentence: “Gentlemen, there is only one enemy—France.” If all the Christian people in the world could forget their quarrels and present an unbroken front against the one enemy sin, the impact of that force would be irresistible. No social evil could stand it. The fingers of a hand are often separated, and their separateness, at certain times, undoubtedly has a value, but when summoned to face an enemy they close up into one fist and their separateness disappears. The church lacks that degree of “punch” which it might possess.

The name of John Wesley is sometimes invoked in favor of narrow views. Let me quote some words of his: “Give me thy hand. I do not mean you to be of my opinion; you need not. I do not expect it or desire it; neither do I mean I will be of your opinion. I cannot; it does not depend on my choice. I can no more think than I can say or hear as I will. Keep your opinion and I mine7 as steadily as ever. Only give me thy hand. I do not mean embrace my modes of worship or I embrace yours. I have no desire to dispute with you one moment. Let all matters-of belief-stand aside, let them never come inside. If thine heart is as my heart; if thou love God and all mankind, I ask no more. Give me thy hand.” “I believe,” someone has said, “in the beloved community and in the spirit which makes it beloved and in the communion of all who, in will and deed, are its members. I see no such ideal community as yet, but my rule in life is: ‘Act so as to hasten its coming.’ ”

Another point I hasten to make is that in true
Christian fellowship it must be clear that everybody’s contribution is equally welcome. We are all ready to pay respect to the opinion of the expert, but since we are talking mainly about life we must not allow anybody to be awed into silence by the profound views of some pundit. Nor must we sit in sacred silence while some merchant prince holds forth on unemployment. Further, we must never allow ourselves to be dominated by somebody with a very dogmatic manner and a very imperious temper. Here a sense of humor in the leader is invaluable. I have heard a person, very great in his own estimation, tell his views with a finality which the Pope himself could not exceed, and then heard a girl leader of about seventeen add in a tiny voice, “And that’s that!” ending a momentary awed hush with a burst of delighted laughter from us all.

Some eager young souls expect a little too much from group fellowship. They expect that all their problems will be solved and are disappointed if this is not so. There are hundreds of reasons why this cannot be so in many cases. God’s impartation must be limited by our knowledge and faith, and so on. But we are likely to get farther together than alone. And it is better that a group should break up without a definite answer to some problem of conduct or life, than that the personality of some dominating leader should push them to a conclusion which causes their minds to stop thinking. It is better to go away to review a situation again and come to one’s own conclusion than to go away supposing that because Mr. So-and-So has said this, a subject is settled. A conclusion to which we come by ourselves is a far greater treasure and, ultimately, of a far greater authority, than one which is pushed on to a mind which has not quite got to the point of receiving it.

If Christian fellowship were all it might be, however, the individual members of our churches ought to be able to find in it tremendous help with their problems. A man who is up against some moral problem in his business life ought to be able to feel that he can put that problem before the fellowship in his church, knowing that they will pray about it, seek the guidance of God in it, view it from without, as he, from within the situation, cannot view it; and I think he ought to feel that a unanimous finding of such a group is the mind of God concerning that situation. I believe that is implied in the New Testament.(Matthew 18:15-20)

I cannot, myself, avoid the conclusion that group fellowship will more and more come to be the central thing of church life. I see already the end of the Sunday of two stereotyped services. In olden days the “parson” got that nickname because he was the only persona in the neighborhood, the only educated person, and, therefore, the only channel by which the people could get certain ideas. But in these days of books and libraries and wireless, when the average education of the pew is almost as high as the average education of the pulpit, it does seem a lot to expect young people to come and listen to a discourse without any chance of asking questions or discussing the points raised. I find, continually, that in places where services are not very well attended, any opportunities given to young people to discuss the problems
of living are well attended, even at difficult times. I have known companies of young people, over two hundred strong, meet on a hot Saturday afternoon in June, on the premises of a very poorly attended city church, to discuss prayer. And the future, along these lines, is full of hope. When one remembers that every method of offering healing to men has undergone revolutionary changes within the last twenty years, it is incredible that the best way in which we can meet the sicknesses of the soul is to offer two services on Sunday which follow the same order one hundred and four times a year. Most ministers would admit the difficulty of making two good sermons a week. It seems to me indicated that it would be well to give up the painfully dull services in many a church and chapel, attended by a dispirited handful of people, led by an equally discouraged minister, and put in its place a live group, if only of half a dozen, who are questing for reality. Such a substitution could no more be called failure than a doctor fails by substituting a modern scientific method of healing the body for some cumbersome technique of an older day.
Let us make a beginning in our own churches. Each one of us has a little bit of mosaic to bring, some little bit of truth, some little bit of experience, some little discovery in things moral and spiritual, some little bit of tenderness or sympathy, some helpful, or even stern word that will help another wayfarer. Let us each bring our little bit of mosaic, however humble it seems, and lay it in the right way. Then gradually a pathway will be made along which Christ shall come in power to our hearts and to the church; a pathway such as shall enable us to sing with a new meaning:

“Lord, come awayl Why dost thou stay?
Thy road is ready; and thy paths, made straight,
With longing expectation wait
The consecration of thy beauteous feet.”