The importance of fellowship (Part 1)

Before I kick off with fellowship, I just want to say a few words about the importance of church attendance.

First, is church attendance important?

Let’s start with scripture, what does scripture say about being a follower of Jesus Christ?

Well, in 1 Corinthians 12, (please do read this in your Bible) Paul compares Christ-followers to a body—the body of Christ.  Every Christian is a part of this body (vs. 27), every part needs the others (vs. 21), and every part should be concerned for the others (vs. 25-26).  In addition, no part of the body, no member of the church, can claim to be a self-sufficient unit (vs. 15-16).  Since the local church is the method God has chosen for us to join together and live like a cohesive body, church attendance is very important.  I know we can’t do this at the moment, but when we can we must get back into the habit of gathering together corporately, and we will one day soon be able to do this.

All Christians make up the universal church, but God uses smaller local churches in very specific, important ways.  The local church is where we learn about God (Acts 2:42).  It is also how we build each other up through encouragement (Hebrews 3:13), exhortation (Hebrews 10:24), service (Galatians 5:13), honour (Romans 12:10), and compassion (Ephesians 4:32).

Gathering as church is so important.  The groupings we are looking to establish is a way of being church, of gathering in one way or another as Christ’s Church here.

So what is Christian fellowship, and why is it so important?

Our reading from Acts 2 clearly teaches us that the early Christians emphasised the importance of fellowship.  Acts 2:42 says, They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

So in the early church, day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favour with all the people, (Acts 2:46-47).  But why is Christian fellowship important?

The New Testament word for fellowship is koinonia.  This expresses the idea of being together for mutual benefit.  Hebrews 10:24-25 shares this idea, saying, And let us consider how we may spur one another on towards love and good deeds.  Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching.

This clearly teaches that fellowship stirs us up to love; to do good works; to meet together; to encourage others.

There are a number of reasons that fellowship with other Christians is so important.  The verses from Acts 2 gives us two basic reasons that fellowship with other believers is so important:

  1. It helps express love to one another
  2. It encourages good works

A third important reason for Christian fellowship is its impact on unbelievers.  Jesus told His disciples, “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Jesus clearly tells us that the love we as Christians have for one another will influence others towards faith in Jesus Christ.  Does your life have that level of impact?

Still another important reason for Christian fellowship is the ability to pray together.  Early believers were committed to prayer, both individually and in groups.  In James 5:14-16, elders were called together to pray for the sick as well as for those who had sinned.  This required being together.

Christian fellowship is also important for church decision-making.  In both Acts 6 (the choosing of seven Spirit-filled people, including Stephen), and Acts 15 (the council of Jerusalem & circumcision or not?), the early church gathered together to make important decisions about the future direction of the church.  These required community, prayer, and close discussion.

Christian fellowship is required for baptism.  A new Christian cannot baptise himself or herself because that is not a public profession of faith.  Christians gather together to celebrate a person’s baptism and serve as witnesses of the person’s commitment to a new life in Jesus Christ.

Christian fellowship is required for communion in the Lord’s Supper.  The Lord’s Supper doesn’t quite work the same for an online church, though at the moment it is all we can do, and we have to make the most of less than ideal circumstances.  I hope that those who were able to join us from the end of August through to the end of October will have realised again that time together with other believers makes all the difference, as we remember all that Christ has done for us through the pain and suffering He endured as He hung on the cross when His blood was shed and His body broken.

Sadly, though many believers today do not recognise the importance of fellowship or local church involvement.  The truth is this; Christian fellowship is essential to spiritual growth.  Many aspects of our spiritual lives depend on being together with other believers to encourage, teach, serve, and share life together.

Earlier I used the word Koinonia.  This is the New Testament word for fellowship, but let’s look a bit deeper at this word.

Koinonia is the Greek word for fellowship.  It refers to community, one’s place in a group, and the representation of fellowship such as a joint gift.  It appears over 17 times in the NT in one form or another.

The way this word is used is that it characterises the church.  John says that the purpose of the Gospel is to lead people to have koinonia (fellowship) with others and with God (1 John 1:3, 6-7).  Several verses also exhort us to have koinonia with the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14; Philippians 2:1).

Koinonia refers to more than the warm feeling of relationship.  In Romans 15:26, which lists churches that have made a contribution to the poor in Jerusalem, “contribution” is the word koinonia.  And 1 Corinthians 10:16 says that communion is koinonia.

The natural result of koinonia is that there is no fellowship without action.  Hence we believe that RBR Connections will result in deeper practical pastoral support and greater spiritual support.  Having koinonia with God and other believers helps us find our place in both the Body of Christ and the work of Christ.

To sum up…

Fellowship in the context of the local church will increase your love for and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Bride, the new community, the redeemed people of God, the church. 

Fellowship enables us to see that the local church is a community with real names, with real faces, with real joys and with real sorrows, and that through this life together, we become a visible manifestation of the Gospel we are all called proclaim.

Fellowship originates in and by the Holy Spirit (2 Cor. 13:14).  This results in a relationship with God, the Trinity (1 Jn. 1:3-6) and with one another.  It really means living and sharing life together.

Based on article from Got Questions Ministries @ www.compellingtruth.org & used with permission

Time to think

Read Acts 2:42-end and John 13:31-35.  With pen and paper (maybe your journal) to hand consider the following questions.  Perhaps you could share your reflections with others.

Digging into God’s Word

Questions

  1. What should our attitude be towards fellowship?  (Acts 2:42)
  2. How often should we encourage one another? Why? (Hebrews 3:13)
  3. Read 1 Thessalonians 5:14 and write down the four actions we are to take towards other believers.  Ask God to empower you by His Spirit to live these out in a deeper way.
  4. What attitude should we have towards each other? (Ephesians 4:32, Colossians 3:13)
  5. How long should we let a problem go on with a brother or sister before we deal with it? (Ephesians 4:26-27, Matthew 5:23-24)
  6. What should be our attitude in communicating with others? (James 1:19-20)
  7. How should we treat others? (Philippians 2:3-4, 1 Peter 4:9)
  8. What kind of person will listen to counsel? (Proverbs 11:14, Proverbs 12:15)
  9. What are the benefits of listening to rebuke? (Proverbs 15:31-32)
  10. What should we do with our gifts, talents, or abilities?  (1 Peter 4:10)
  11. How does the Bible define Christian fellowship? 

Prayer Response

Loving Lord, thank You for all my brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Lord, and thank You that You have made us one in Him and are building us into a spiritual temple of living stones, each with our own peculiar function, in the heavenly kingdom of God.  Instil in each of our hearts an increasing thirst after holiness and righteousness, and give us an ever-deepening love for each other and for You.

Keep us I pray, from petty arguments and careless words and may we minister to one another in true Christian fellowship and godly love, in a body-ministry that exults You, where the gifts and talents of each member are used and valued in the edification of the others, to the praise of Your holy name.

Be glorified I pray, in each and every member of Your body, and use us all to be a witness of the love of Jesus to those who are lost.  And Father, I pray that You would unite us in godly love and Christian fellowship, as we watch for the return of the Lord Jesus, in whose name I pray, Amen.