Friday, April 22, 2016

True Christian Fellowship

Fellowship is defined as friendly association, especially with people who share one's interests.

In Acts 2:42 we read that Christian fellowship was practiced among the new believers in the new church
They were devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 
At Bible.org we read the following opening paragraphs regarding fellowship and what it has come to mean. I agree with these statements, and I'm disappointed that what passes for fellowship today is often absent some critical ingredients. More on that in a moment.
Introduction
In Acts 2:42 we read that one of the four things the early church devoted itself to was “fellowship.” Fellowship was a very important part of their reason for meeting together. It was one of their objectives. But what is fellowship? 
We often hear people talking about fellowship. We hear it said that what we need is more fellowship. But our modern ideas of fellowship have become so watered down that the word no longer carries the same meaning it did in New Testament times. 
We are not surprised that the early church devoted itself to “the apostles’ teaching” and also “to prayer.” Apart from the ministry of the Holy Spirit, these are the two most important means of growth, power, and effectiveness in the Christian life and this is everywhere evident in the rest of Scripture. 
But Luke tells us these early Christians also devoted themselves to fellowship. They just didn’t have fellowship; they devoted themselves to it. This means that fellowship was a priority and one of the objectives for gathering together. They made fellowship a priority. 
Today, however, we often view fellowship as what we do in “fellowship hall.” It’s the place where we have casual conversations and savor coffee and donuts. This is not bad and can contribute to fellowship, but it falls far short of fellowship according to biblical standards and according to the meaning and use of the Greek words for fellowship.
In today's watered-down Christian fellowship world, we'd simply be "devoting ourselves" to more coffee and donuts and sitting for longer periods on the hard folding chairs before the Youth come and take them away so the kids can start AWANAs. But is that true fellowship?


The critical ingredient that is often missing from Christian fellowship, even when it's organized and intentional, is talk of Jesus. See this paragraph from John Bunyan's allegorical book, Pilgrim's Progress,
Now I saw in my dream, that thus they sat talking together until supper was ready. So when they had made ready, they sat down to meat. Now the table was furnished with fat things, and with wine that was well refined; and all their talk at the table was about the Lord of the hill; as, namely, about what he had done, and wherefore he did what he did, and why he had builded that house; and by what they said, I perceived that he had been a great warrior, and had fought with and slain him that had the power of death, Heb. 2:14,15; but not without great danger to himself, which made me love him the more.
The beginning of fellowship is to focus on Jesus, talk with praise and awe about all that He has done, and by the end of the fellowship time, you love Him all the more. Yet too often when we finish our fellowship time, no one has even mentioned Jesus.

The Bible.org article continues,
You may be thinking, “My view of fellowship is much richer and deeper than mere social activity. True fellowship involves getting together for spiritual purposes: for sharing needs, for prayer, for discussing and sharing the Word to encourage, comfort, and edify one another.” And you are right. This certainly is an aspect of Christian fellowship, and one much more important than the first idea. It is an area of fellowship that is often lacking in the church today and one that needs to be remedied. But even this does not comprehend or grasp the full and rich meaning of “fellowship” in the New Testament.
The article goes on at length to describe the deeper aspects of true Christian fellowship. We also have fellowship with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14) and that is a rich study in itself. The Bible.org study begins its conclusion this way-

Fellowship in the body of Christ is certainly no side issue. It was one of the four things the early church devoted itself to, and from this brief study, we can see why. It is a means of support and encouragement to others and of ministry in the Savior’s enterprise on earth. We have seen four words (relationship, partnership, companionship, and stewardship) that describe the general emphasis of this New Testament concept, but how does this carry over into specifics? How do we have the kind of fellowship that encourages, edifies (builds) and serves one another? How do we find the strength, the wisdom, and the courage to have true fellowship?
I encourage you to read the article. At the very least, fellowship in the "fellowship hall" over coffee and donuts is a mere social activity. Let us seek deeper fellowship, and devote ourselves to it, making Jesus central in the conversation and fellowshipping with the Spirit.




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