A poem was written by Grace Lowry: “The saints of old for worship met around the Lord’s Table, had fellowship in song and prayer, and gave what they were able. The saints today still worship God, and give of what they’ve got; but fellowship is somewhere else, around the coffee pot.” Few living creatures can survive, let alone flourish, without interaction with others of their own kind. Humans are no different and are especially interdependent, requiring more elaborate relationships than the rest of creation.
Jesus in Matthew 22:37-40 said that the greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength.” Next, He makes a rather shocking statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets. One of the principles we can learn from this is that we can keep the rest of God’s commandments, but if we do not have love it is meaningless. This is also found in 1 Corinthians 13.
Christian fellowship goes beyond the mere interaction with one another, but it is having a deeper and more meaningful type of relationship. So what makes this so unique? Well in 1 John 1:1-3, we see that John is letting us know that when we have fellowship with one another we are also partaking in fellowship with God and Christ Jesus.
Fellowship is not something that was given as a suggestion, but as a command. This fellowship does not always look like the average fellowship we see around the table for a meal, but it is everyday life. Jesus tells us that however we treat our brother is how we are treating Him. Let’s see what types of commands we have on how to treat one another:
- Love one another- 1 John 3:11
- Instruct one another- Romans 15:14
- Encourage one another- 1 Thessalonians 5:11
- Provoke one another to love and good works- Hebrews 10:24
- Rejoice with one another, weep with one another- Romans 12:15
- Forgive one another- Ephesians 4:32
- Tolerate one another- Ephesians 4:2
- Confess our faults to one another and pray for one another- James 5:16
Fellowship is a part of our growth, spiritually. Like a green house is the perfect environment for plants to grow, so should the church be the perfect environment for Christians to grow. If we want to become more Christ-like, then we need to be around people who are not only striving for the same thing, but also ones who will help us obtain that goal and correct us when we are doing wrong (Galatians 6:1-4). When Fellowship is done properly, the Bible becomes more than just mere information, but it becomes the living and powerful word of God. Things such as prayer and being thankful, take on a whole new meaning. Now instead of praying for selfish ambitions we are praying for one another and asking God to help more than just ourselves. We can be thankful for God sending people into our lives to strengthen and encourage us on our journey to heaven.
To be able to develop this type of fellowship in the church, there are some things that we need. First, we need patience. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit for a reason. Not everybody is at the same level, whether it be knowledge, or maturity in Christ. All things come with patience and time, nothing happens overnight. Can one become compassionate, loving, or obtain knowledge all overnight? Also, church functions need to be more than just “events”. Joe Ellis, writes in his book, “The Church on Purpose”, “Contemporary church relationships are often impersonal and sometimes negative…people attend services more as spectators than participants; and an atmosphere develops that is tainted with aloofness” (p. 73). He also writes, “Church activities are often so formally arranged that relationships go no deeper than human civility” (p. 73). This reminds me of the Christians in 1 Corinthians 11:17ff, where they had come together to partake of the Lord’s Supper, but it was not the Lord’s Supper because of the manner in which they partook of it.
We need to revitalize the church. Robert Yawberg has described the results of revitalization in Christian Fellowship:
Many Christians across the land are discovering the simple New Testament concept of fellowship. They are praying together with other Christians in homes, offices, restaurants, and schools. As in the days of the early church, they are searching the Word of God for truth. There is spontaneous sharing of insights in an atmosphere of freedom and acceptance. People are learning to love one another, just as they are; and they are helping each other to feel that they do not have to have perfect understanding before attempting to express their ideals.
We must keep in mind that fellowship goes beyond the mere interaction with one another and that the church today can revitalize the way God intended for fellowship to work. The revitalization process may take some time, but with a bit of patience and the work of each individual Christian, it can be accomplished.