Do Christians fellowship when we go to the Fellowship Hall and eat a fellowship meal? Is Christian fellowship the same as contact? Contact at the same table with a cup of coffee in front of us or dip and chips.
The first time the word “fellowship” occurs in the Bible is on the day the church was born. Peter preached, three thousand people got saved, got baptized, joined the church, started meeting regularly to hear God’s Word taught, to worship God, to pray together and to fellowship according to Acts 2:42.
After they gathered together they scattered into the community and served one another (Acts 2:42-47). All of this is involved in fellowship.
Nearly a century ago, Pastor G. Campbell Morgan visited a church member who had been absent from church for sometime. They were sitting near the fireplace and a warm fire burned with red hot coals. The man informed Dr. Morgan that he did not need the church any more in his spiritual walk. Without saying anything, Dr. Morgan took the poker and reached into the fire. He separated just one coal, which he slid toward them. He then sat back, and both of them watched the way that, in a short time, the coal lost its fire.
Now most of us, when we think of “koinonia,” think of potluck suppers and socials. However, it was actually a word that directly related to their commitment to each other in order to accomplish the mission of the church. So, in Jerusalem there is a band of red hot believers who banded together in fellowship or partnership to see the task accomplished (Steven Davey in a sermon on Acts 2:40-47).
Our Fellowship Starts With God
First of all, fellowship can only occur when a sinner is in fellowship with God who is a fellowshipping Godhead. The Trinity is social. John described fellowship for the believer as walking in the light or being pure before God in 1 John 1:7. This fellowship is based on a relationship of closeness and keeping our sins confessed.
Next, this fellowship involves a material participation with the elements of the Lord’s Supper in 1 Corinthians 10:16-17. So to fellowship there has to be a close relationship which demands more than contact in a fellowship building and fellowship also requires a material and physical participation with someone else.
Our Fellowship Continues with Believers
Robert Anderson says that “discipleship and fellowship are one and the same” (The Effective Pastor, page 342). That thought is revolutionizing!
To fellowship with another Christian means to disciple that believer to be a better follower of Christ. We can accomplish this through the “one another” passages in the NT. John Hammett says there are 31 different one another commands. Obeying these enables us to be in close relationship in order to make disciples and gives us opportunities to participate materially and physically in someone else’s life (Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches: A Contemporary Ecclesiology, page 228).
“Love one another” is commanded 17 times; “encourage one another” is commanded 4 times; “forgive one another” is commanded 4 times; “serve one another” is commanded 3 times. Here are some more “one another” commands: “Be of the same mind one toward another” or “ live harmony with one another” (Romans 12:16); “edify or build up one another” (1 Thessalonians 5:11); “provoke one another to love and good works” (Hebrews 10:24); “accept one another” (Romans 15:7); “pray one for another”; “bear one another’s burdens” “teach and admonish one another” (Colossians 3:16). If we practiced these one another commands we would not just contact people we would impact them.
Christian fellowship involves physical sharing as the Philippians did with Paul. Paul thanks God for the fellowship of the Philippians with him in the beginning of the gospel in Philippians 1:3-5. Ten years earlier, the Philippians shared financially with Paul. Paul refers to this 4:14-17. True fellowship is costly. It requires not just giving but sacrifical giving where we give up something in order to give. Remember the on wellfare, on food stamps believers at Macedonian who gave out of their poverty not abundance (2 Corinthians 8:1-2).
True fellowship results in evangelism (Acts 2:47; John 13:34, 35). The unsaved look at this unselfish caring and want to experience it for themselves. True fellowship results in people joining a church because they have become closer in a relationship with someone in the church than with someone outside the church. True fellowship results in new church members not leaving. True fellowship results in unity and teamwork like we see in the early church where shortly after its inception they had turned the world upside down.
One of the largest, strongest horses in the world is the Belgian draft horse. Competitions are held to see which horse can pull the most, and one Belgian can pull eight thousand pounds. The weird thing is if you put two Belgian horses in the harness who are strangers to each other, together they can pull twenty to twenty-four thousand pounds. Two can pull not twice as much as one but three times as much as one. This example represents the power of synergy. However, if the two horses are raised and trained together they learn to pull and think as one. The trained, and therefore unified, pair can pull not only twenty-four thousand pounds but will hit thirty to thirty-two thousand pounds. The unified pair can pull four times as much as a single horse. They can pull an extra eight thousand pounds simply by being unified. But unity is never simple or easy (Dave Ramsey. EntreLeadership, Kindle Locations 3904-3908, Howard Books).
Large mega churches that are attractional cannot accomplish this ministry of fellowship and disciple making. After ten years of 1000 mega churches being founded in America there are less people per capita in church than ever before. What is missing?
Rick Warren said, “Small groups are the most effective way of closing the back door of your church.” Because small groups can become ingrown, Matt Carter in Three Ways to Lead Your Church to be on Mission says small communities must transitions to missional teams that focus on others in the community. Missional, fellowshipping believers want to get their hands dirty helping others in order to give the transforming gospel of Christ.
Again, fellowship takes place as we seek to disciple others. Small groups that are missional instead of communial will focus on loving their neighbors thourgh cell groups and caring for their city through non-profit organizations that minister to the needy. Our local non-profit organization, COAT, ministers to 700 families in our city. This Christmas there will be children who have no Christmas unless COAT provides a Christmas for these children in poor and hungry families. Did you ever go without a Christmas? Did any of your children ever not have a Christmas? I wonder what the Lord wants us to do? Here is a thought. Let’s give some Christmas gifts in order to tell them about the Christmas Gift! For about $80 you can buy a child a pair of tennis shoes, pants, a top and two toys according to COAT and give that child a Christmas. Just a thought!