What do you think of when you hear the word “fellowship”?
- Do you think of a group of people bound by a common purpose (fellowship of the ring, Fellowship of Christian Athletes, etc.)?
- Do you think of a fellowship meal, such as one served on special occasions at church?
- Do you think of light-hearted banter and laughter, as when a family reunion is held?
- What favorite memory comes to mind when you hear the word “fellowship”?
In the Bible fellowship is an important concept.
Psalms 55:14 (WEB) 14We took sweet fellowship together. We walked in God’s house with company.
Acts 2:42 (WEB) 42They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and prayer.
1 Corinthians 1:9 (WEB) 9God is faithful, through whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.
2 Corinthians 8:3-4 (WEB) 3For according to their power, I testify, yes and beyond their power, they gave of their own accord, 4begging us with much entreaty to receive this grace and the fellowship in the service to the saints.
2 Corinthians 13:14 (WEB) 14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.
Philemon 6 (WEB) 6that the fellowship of your faith may become effective, in the knowledge of every good thing which is in us in Christ Jesus.
1 John 1:7 (WEB) 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Fellowship is one of the key practices that the early church was devoted to pursuing (see Acts 2:42 above). Throughout the book of Acts we see the church gathered. The Greek word “ekklesia” literally means “assembly.” The church is the “assembled” or “gathered” group of believers. The church is more than family or friends meeting for food or friendship and conversation. It is even more than a Bible study. It is the gathering of the body of Christ to study the Word, to practice koinonia (where we obey the reciprocal commands: loving one another, caring for one another, forgiving one another, serving one another, etc.), to celebrate and worship together, observing the sacraments, and to pray together. These activities are NOT optional, NOT trivial, NOT private and NOT to be neglected (see Hebrews 10:23-25).
- Almost 6 in 10 Americans see valid alternatives to worshiping in a church with other believers. And more than a third say worship services should be entertaining if churches want to be effective.
- Fifty-eight percent of Americans agree that worshiping alone or with one’s family is a valid replacement for regularly attending church. Thirty percent disagree. Twelve percent are not sure.
- “Church attendance has long been a measure of religious and devotion,” Scott McConnell, head of LifeWay Research, said. “Today, less than half of religious service attendees see regularly gathering for worship with other believers at church as essential.”
The statistics reveal what pastors have been observing for some time now. Church attendance has not only been decreasing, but has diminished in its appeal. More people see church attendance as unimportant. More people allow other activities to override church attendance. The world system has certainly conspired in this, planning events and activities at times and on days normally associated with religious worship. However, the choice between worship with the gathered church and involvement in other activities is a matter of priorities. What is more (most) important?
It all comes down to delight. When I was in high school, I was heavily involved in my church and its activities. I was a youth leader in the church, but I was constantly drawn to to the church and to its various members by the encouragement, laughter and comraderie we shared. We were constantly seeking ways to be involved in each other’s lives. I eagerly anticipated opportunities to be involved in the services, programs and activities of the church. I wanted to invite people to my church and to share Jesus with others. Those were exciting days for me. I found delight in this.
When we delight in the things of the Lord, His Word, His work, and His people, we will make time for “fellowship.” When the church practices Biblical fellowship, people are aware of it, amazed by it and attracted to it. We must STOP “forsaking the assembling of ourselves together!” We must be DEVOTED to fellowship. Otherwise, our spiritual lives are impoverished, our testimony is diluted, and our impact is diminished. We fail, not because we are belligerent, but because we are simply indifferent.