Andrew Fulford discusses what, according to Stephen Garber, very often differentiates those Christians who stay faithful from those who abandon the faith along the way:
Firstly, the faithful ones found answers to objections to their faith. They were able to hold their faith together with reason, and with honesty regarding the facts. Secondly, they found mentors or teachers in the faith, who were able to model for them what it meant to live out Christianity as a mature human being. Thirdly, they found a community, or friends, with whom they could live out their faith in mutual support.
He then considers fraternities as a way to implement the third factor, that of community.
Yet, congregations should not shoulder this burden by themselves. A real weakness lurks beneath the recent push among groups like Evangelicals, Emergents, Missionals, Postliberals, etc., to subsume every part of the mission underneath the visible and institutional church (that is, insofar as they do indeed succumb to this attitude; I am sure there are many counterexamples that do not). It is a mistake to think everything Christians do must be done as an official ministry of local congregations, or networks of congregations in what we call denominations. The Reformational emphasis on the priesthood of all believers, and on the importance of vocation in the non-ecclesiastical realm, remains salutary for us today.
So, are there other ways, beyond the ministries of the institutional church, that Christians could provide these three faithfulness-producing causes for themselves? Here’s one idea I have been mulling over. I think Western believers ought to really consider reviving fraternities.
But they could be seditious conventicles! All the good order of the Church would be overthrown by meetings not controlled by the clergy!
Surely a Little Gidding would present a grave danger to society, threatening the levelling of relationships in the Church to the single Christian call of equal love. Such rogue small groups are not to be tolerated, and it behoves our pastors to steer their flocks clear of fraternal wolves. Society, after all, is what the clerics say it is.