The Importance Of Fellowship In A Church

Our church just had a pre-thanksgiving celebration and time of fellowship this last Sunday.  We brought our favorite soup or stew, and dessert.  We stayed for a time of comedy, board games, playing with wii and x-box, great conversaton and laughter.  A good time was had by all.  We need more times of playing together.

When I was just out of my first Bible school in the mid-seventies, I was a youth leader for a church in the midwest.  The pastor was quite elderly, and had grown up in a very legalistic church.  He didn’t belive in even allowing the youth to play a game.  He beleived that the youth didn’t need anything more that a prayer meeting, ever!  Needlless to say, he was a bit legalistic, religious, and out of touch with the youth of the day. Unfortunately, many youth groups have swung to the other ditch.  I know a very Godly young man who told us that the youth group he attended in a pentecostal church was quite the other way.  The unsaved were being bussed in, which would be awesome of they were presented with the Word of God and brought to a decision. However, they usually were given games, pizza, and at most, a “light, compromsing message”.  They swore, slept with one another, listened to heavy rock music, and made fun of this young man.  So, we could used a good half-way point here.  

I believe the church needs to come together, work together, believe together, pray together, worship together, and play and eat together.  However, there is more to fellowship than that.  What is the true meaning of Biblical fellowship?  Our English word, “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word, “koinonia.”  The root of the word, “fellowship,” means “to hold something in common.”  It is an interdependent relationship.

I find it interesting that the word “fellowship” was never used to describe man’s relationship to God before the coming of the Holy Spirit to indwell the church. We only see fellowship after pentecost.  So, all fellowship stems from us having The Holy Spirit at the center of us in everything we do.  Fellowship is also an inner unity with Christ.  This may be seen in verses such as 1 Corinthians 1:9:  God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Fellowship doesn’t stop with inner unity.   It’s primarily an action word! Koinonia is used nineteen times in the New Testament and in addition to being translated as “fellowship” it is also translated by the words, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.”  Action is always included in its meaning. Fellowship, you see, is not just being together, it is doing together!  Many people choose to ignore that today.

It’s also about a unique relationship with Christ.   We are “in Christ.”  We also have a relationship of being “a part of Christ’s body.” Fellowship is neither. It is not “being in” or “being part” but it is “doing with” Christ. It is our partnership with Christ in fulfilling God’s will.  So, fellowship is not just doing anything together. It is only doing God’s will together.   Our fellowship with others is only as good as our fellowship with Christ, our unity.

I love to play together and I believe we need much more of that.  My husband has pastored for twenty-four years now and served in previous churches.  He said that he had a difficult time getting people to spend time together, , eat with one another after church, or invite one another to homes.  There were many “clicks” and not the unity he knew was needed.  I want our new church to be one where we actually enjoy one another’s company and get to really know one another.  I hate surface relationships.  We wave and say “how are you” without finding out.  However, all of this kind of fellowship must stem from real Biblical fellowship.  We must quit thinking of Christian fellowship as primarily doing things such as having pot luck dinners or watching football with other believers. These have their place but they are only fellowship to the extent that rest, exercise, and eating are doing the work of the Lord. Fellowship involves actively doing God’s will. The things we usually think of as fellowship are certainly not the primary meaning of the word!

“Fellowship is a relationship of inner unity among believers that expresses itself in outer co-participation with Christ and one another, in accomplishing God’s will on earth.”  It is an inner unity expressed outwardly. It is not just being together, but doing together and working together to accomplish God’s will.   “Why is it so important to the church?”

If we look at the New Testament, God’s pattern for the chuch, we see that fellowship occurred naturally as a result of the establishment of the church.  Nobody had to come to the disciples and other new believers on the day of Pentecost and say, “You need to practice fellowship.” The Holy Spirit had come upon these people and formed an inner unity and their natural inclination was to exercise it outwardly. Acts 2:44-47 says “And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.  All of their possessions, work, and talents, were put together to accomplish God’s purpose.  They had corporate prayer and group worship on a daily basis.

Fellowship is means of accomplishing the God-given purpose of the church.  Ephesians 3:8-11. “To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord”, …   God has an eternal plan. The church is His instrument in accomplishing that plan. The purpose of the church is to hold God up to the world and display every glorious aspect of Him for all to see.

No individual working alone could ever fulfill this plan.  Each person must not only play his part but must play it together.  We are His body.   It’s only as we work together that it’s possible to accomplish God’s plan. This is why fellowship is indispensable to the church.

There are people who just want to come, recieve, and be left alone.  They don’t try to find out how they can serve best or give to anyone else.  They think the church can make it without them.  However, 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that every single member of the body is necessary. Because of the importance of fellowship, no one has the right to amputate themselves from the functioning body of Christ, the local church.

How, then, can we practice fellowship?  You can practice Fellowship by recognizing our goal and taking an active part where you can best help.  People often don’t take part in a church because they see no purpose. We participate together seven days a week to glorify God, to do it His way, and to do it together.

You can practice fellowship by taking an active part where you can best help with this goal.  You need to recognize your spiritual gifts and natural abilities and  know the needs of our church.  As you work with others, your gifts will surface.

When I was a little girl in children’s church, we sang a song “When we all will pull together, how happy we’ll be. “Let everyone practice fellowship as naturally as did those on the day of Pentecost that the wisdom of God might be made known through this church.