During my time as a senior pastor I started a prayer group on Monday evenings to focus on praying for the needs of our church family. One Monday evening as we were discussing what God’s will was for our small church family one of the women made the observation that God’s will would include real fellowship. The consensus of the group was that while we were a friendly church true fellowship was absent.
I believe that many church families are searching for fellowship. They have programs in place to promote fellowship, but fellowship seems to elude them. Potlucks and small groups aren’t connecting people to one another, let alone connecting people to God.
The reality is that fellowship can’t be programed or planned. Fellowship is the result of people getting involved in one another’s lives. Until we enter into the life of another person true fellowship will continue to be an elusive desire for our lives.
Fellowship is a great church word, but it isn’t one that we often use outside of the context of church. Unless your friends are Christian you don’t invite people to your home for a time of fellowship. This means for most of us fellowship is about spending time with other Christians. Yet, the biblical idea of fellowship is so much more than just being together.
The Greek word that is translated fellowship is the word koinonia and according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary it means partnership and participation. In other words it is an action word and it requires us to be involved in other people's lives.
The idea behind fellowship isn’t that we make time for “hanging out,” but that we do life together. We are actively involved in the lives of other Christians, and we allow them to be involved in our lives.
We miss out on fellowship because we have made fellowship about spending time together, when it is really about being involved with each other. There is a huge difference.
When we spend time together we can fake it by being friendly and polite. Being involved in the lives of other people means entering into their life, accepting them for who they are, loving them, serving them, and encouraging them. It requires us to be vulnerable as we open our lives up to them.
Fellowship is risky business. Not only do we open ourselves up to being hurt, but we are also take on the problems of our companions. True fellowship is not for the weak of heart.
Deep and meaningful fellowship cannot be planned or programed. The Fellowship Ministry Team at church may be able to plan times for Christians to get together, but they cannot force people to go beyond being polite and friendly with each other. While these connections are good they often leave us wanting more.
We may not be able to program true fellowship, but we can take steps to create an environment where fellowship can thrive. Remember fellowship doesn’t come naturally to us. Yes, it is something that we desire, but we are more inclined to do things that benefit us, and fellowship, at its core, is about doing things that bless our friends
No wonder the New Testament writers reminded us of the importance of being involved in the lives of one another. It is not something we do naturally.
Reading through the New Testament we discover that we are called to love one another, forgive one another, encourage one another, honor one another, live in harmony with one another, accept one another, and instruct one another. This is a sampling of how God wants us to relate to each other. By relating to each other in these various ways we establish an environment in which fellowship can take root and grow.
The essence of fellowship is love. The “one another” commands in the New Testament give us practical ways for us to love one another. Fellowship is the extension of our love for each other. How do we go about creating an environment of love that will allow fellowship to flourish?
It starts with risk. if we are to create environments which promote the development of fellowship risk is a necessity.
Fellowship is nice in theory, but it messy in reality. To have true fellowship we have to risk getting hurt by people, we have to risk getting involved in their problems, and we have to risk not being able to live life on our terms.
To be committed to one another is risky business, but it is the only way true fellowship will happen. Taking this risk won't be easy, and at times we will want to hide behind the four walls of our houses, but in the end we will discover true fellowship is worth whatever the risk.