Being in the ministry has its ups and downs. One of them is the trust factor of the people you serve. Many times, as a new minister in a congregation, I have not been told about problems people are having until the problems have intensified. But, then I find out that a former minister, who is still in the general area, knew about it and had called them and prayed with them.

A few years ago that situation repeated itself for me. I was the new man in and a minister, several years removed from the church, saw me and asked me how one of our people was doing. I responded with a rather confused attitude as to why he was asking and he unfolded the entire situation to me. I was stunned. Then I was hurt. Why hadn't I been told?

Later that day I visited the woman who was having the problem. I asked her why she had called a former minister and had not called me. "You're new and I didn't want to bother you with it," she replied. Those two words, "you're new," tore at my heart. Indeed, I was new at that church, but she and I had been brother and sister in Christ for almost thirty years. I asked her a question. "Do I need to resign?" "Why would you resign?" she asked. "Because," I responded, "if I can't be trusted to pray for you how can I be trusted to preach to you?"

The common bond of our existence in Christ is supposed to be a powerful one. However, for most it is considered along the same lines of any organization. If people know each other they are accepted. The church is either different in that respect or it is useless. If fellowship is drawn along friendship lines then it ceases to be fellowship in Christ. Our bond is not friendship.

"That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." 1 John 1:3, 4 The strength of a church in its community is its fellowship. And that fellowship is not drawn along friendship lines or physical family lines. It is drawn along the lines of life in the Lord Jesus Christ. Who you fellowship with declares with whom you truly have fellowship.