Some churches are so caught up in repetitious ceremony, that they sometimes miss the point. Maybe you’ve heard about the pastor who began each service with the greeting: “The Lord be with you.” To which the congregation would always respond, “And also with you.” Then came the Sunday when the pastor stepped to the pulpit and stated, “There’s something wrong with this microphone.” To which the reliable audience responded, “And also with you!”
Those people were on autopilot (hopefully)—just going through the motions. The average Christian thinks, “Fellowship? Are you kidding? Do we ever know how to fellowship!” We know how to have potlucks, how to eat pie after church, how to barbecue, picnic, and camp. We’ve even come up with the catchy acronym SNAC (which, of course, stands for “Sunday Night After Church” and typically involves numerous pizzas).
But do we have any idea why we’re doing this fellowship? What are we trying to accomplish? Is there a purpose behind our pie?
Consider the Priority of Biblical Fellowship
Time together was an integral part of first-century church life: “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…all that believed were together, and had all things common…and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart” (Acts 2:42, 44–46).
The Lord Jesus shared many meals with His disciples. Pastors are instructed to be “given to hospitality.” In Paul’s letters, he was conscious to list believers in the churches whose fellowship he valued, like Onesiphorus, who is said to have “oft refreshed” the Apostle. A quick survey of this topic in the New Testament demonstrates that real fellowship accomplishes the following:
• Produces courage for those carrying a burden (Acts 28:15).
• Promotes character for those desiring to grow (Hebrews 10:23–25).
• Provides compassion for those who are hurting (1 John 3:16–18).
• Protects chemistry for those unified in the body (John 17:21–22).
• Prompts companionship for those who are lonely (Acts 2:44).
• Provokes cheerfulness for those who participate (Acts 2:46).
• Promises care for those with tangible needs (Acts 4:34–35).
• Proves Christianity for those who need a Saviour (John 13:35).
The most meaningful gift we can give anyone is our time. By inviting a couple over for dinner, we open up ourselves for friendship. Because we have little choice over the people we work with, it is our casual connections that communicate most clearly that we care.
Consider the Purposes for Biblical Fellowship
First Peter 4:9 challenges us to “Use hospitality one to another without grudging.” Most of us attend fellowships. But do we use fellowship? We should be reaching out and welcoming people into our lives and homes for purposes such as:
• Sharing the Gospel with a lost neighbor.
• Getting to know a recent first-time guest and his or her family.
• Expressing gratitude to one or more long-time faithful, serving Christians.
• Encouraging a church member during a season of suffering.
• Strengthening the bond with a newer member or an emerging leader.
• Allowing newer Christians to rub shoulders with mature Christians.
• Having mutual accountability concerning pre-established spiritual goals.
• Exhorting people to take their next spiritual step such as baptism, church membership, or discipleship.
When it comes to evangelism and assimilation, Christian hospitality is one of the most effective tools in our arsenal. People want to be noticed. They are looking for someone who cares for them. When this relationship is established, then they open themselves to ministry. People listen best after they are convinced the one who is teaching has their best interest at heart. As we teach the Bible, do the members of our classes know we are friends?
Is your fellowship fulfilling the purpose for which it was created? Fellowship was God’s idea, and it is a precious gift within the family of God. As a result of fellowship, may your sorrows be divided and your joys multiplied. And may God use you to build up the body of Christ through biblical, purposeful fellowship!