If you ask different people what makes a good church you will get a
multitude of answers. The sermon, the music, the children’s activities,
evangelism, the people, the Pastor, the fellowship. All of those have
their place, but it is fellowship, true fellowship, that is the glue of a
church. If we get fellowship right it causes the other areas to grow.
A fellowship is an association of people with a common interest. So just
like a social or civic group, the church is a fellowship and our common
interest is Jesus. A fellowship is a family. No family is perfect and
neither is the church. So a fellowship should be tolerant, not of ongoing
sin, but of imperfections. Any of us can fall into a hole, but Christian
fellowship is designed to help us climb out the hole, cover up the hole,
and stop digging new holes. There are three key elements to effective
fellowship and they are pride, enjoyment, and knowledge.
PRIDE: Effective fellowships take pride in what they do. Members care
about the image of their fellowship and they don't mind sharing with you
about their involvement in it. For example, a member of a kennel club
might boast, "I have a purebred Golden Lab! Number one at the Johnson
Kennel Club which, by the way, is the best in the country." You don’t have
to ask them about it. They will gladly tell you more than you care to know
because they are proud of what their fellowship is all about.
ENJOYMENT: Effective fellowships enjoy what they do. Participation is not
a hassle, but a joy. Few things do members enjoy more than meeting with
others in their fellowship. For example, ladies in a sewing club or men in
a Corvette club can talk all day long about sewing and Corvettes because
they love it! Their fellowship is satisfying and fulfilling.
KNOWLEDGE: Effective fellowships are knowledge based. Members are hungry
to pursue and apply knowledge that they get from their fellowship. Go to a
computer club meeting and you will hear conversations on the latest
hardware and software development. They absorb themselves in literature
and in each others’ knowledge. They can’t wait to try it and then share
it. These people will talk your head off because they have knowledge.
Other than the focus of the fellowship, the ingredients for success are
the same! We should be proud to be a child of God and we should be ready
to talk about it. We should enjoy our fellowship and look forward to
getting together. We should be hungry for more knowledge. Excited to learn
it, excited to apply it, and even more excited to share it. Why are there
so many churches and so little impact? Because true fellowship is not
How do churches do with pride? Churches and members boast of being the
biggest or oldest, having the most members or most programs. Psalms 34:2
says "My soul shall make her boast in the Lord:...". Psalms 44:8 says, "In
God we boast all the day long...,". In II Corinthians 10:17 Paul writes,
"But he that glorieth (boasteth), let him glory (boast) in the Lord." Our
pride and boasting should be about Jesus and not in our accomplishments.
How often do Christians talk about what their church, Pastor, or choir is
doing? How often do Christians talk about what their God is doing? We must
be careful not to worship the fellowship, but the focus of the fellowship.
If you don’t take pride in your Christian fellowship you’re probably
ashamed of it. When you’re ashamed of something you don’t want to talk
about it, much less brag about it. In Philippians 1:20, Paul gives the
appropriate attitude of one who is in the fellowship of Christ. It should
be an attitude of confidence and boldness that in all that you do, Christ
shall be magnified, Christ shall be glorified, Christ shall be boasted of!
How do churches do with enjoyment? As I talk to people about their
churches, I hear more about burden than I hear about joy. Church has
become a strain rather than a blessing. We work in the church, but we
complain. We view church as medicine. Something that is good for us, but
hard to get excited about. This is a sad state of affairs for the church.
Churches can often keep us busy, but busy is not the same as fulfillment.
Busy without joy leads to burnout. Knowing that you are doing a good work
by itself is not enough to keep you going. Nehemiah 8:10 states that
"...the joy of the Lord is your strength." Unless you enjoy doing
something, it’s going to be short lived and ineffective.
How do churches do with knowledge? The more you visit different churches
you will find that we are using our Bibles less. If the common interest of
our fellowship is God then shouldn’t our focus be on His word? If we are
not into the word of God is it any wonder churches are failing in their
mission? How can we convince people of a God that we have no knowledge of?
Pride, enjoyment and knowledge. When you have pride in something, enjoy
it, and are knowledgeable about it, YOU WILL PROMOTE IT! But when you’re
ashamed, burdened, and ignorant of something, it’s the last thing in the
world that you want to talk about because the subject makes you
uncomfortable. We should not feel uncomfortable talking about what we
believe. There should be pride, enjoyment and knowledge being shared if
the purpose of our fellowship is to be fully realized.
We must redefine fellowship by the word of God! Fellowship is not a Sunday
program or the refreshments that follow. Nor is fellowship the small talk
about babies, jobs, sports, hairstyles, clothing, and social plans. All of
these things can be a part of it, but they should not define the
Let's go to Acts 2:42 for a biblical look at the word fellowship. This was
right after the day of Pentecost. Peter was preaching to the multitude and
about 3000 people were saved. Notice the words doctrine and fellowship go
hand in hand. Fellowship should promote the doctrine that you believe in.
If our doctrine is Jesus then we ought to hear Jesus being promoted! So
often churches develop a doctrinal statement and hang it on a wall and
that's the end of it! Doctrine by itself can do nothing, but through
fellowship doctrine takes on meaning and comes to life. When we come
together for fellowship, but don’t promote our doctrine a void is formed.
That void usually is filled with a social agenda.
When doctrine is ignored you’ll begin to hear more announcements and more
interest in fishing trips, shopping trips, and other social events than
you do about evangelism and seminars. The Bible says we must continue
steadfastly in the doctrine, in communion, and in prayer if our
fellowships are to be what they were intended to be.
I Corinthians 10:20-23. Fellowship is partaking in the things of God. When
we partake in communion we are bonding with each other in Christ. When we
partake in the evils of the world we are bonding with Satan! We’re
instructed to do one or the other! Verse 23 tells us that there are things
you can do in the world that may even be legal but they may not be in your
best interest as a Christian. God is not going to make a 2000 page list of
do's and don'ts. You must be lead by the Spirit to discern if what you are
in fellowship with is going to build you up in Christ or tear you down.
Ephesians 5:11. Many churches are now saying everything is ok. If it feels
good do it and God is ok with it. But that doesn’t even fly in worldly
fellowships. You don’t drive a Ford Mustang into a Corvette convention and
try to register. You don’t take a cat into a dog show and sign up for
competition. There are standards, rules, and regulations and if you don’t
follow them you will be reproved. You will be corrected. If the world
knows how to keep a fellowship healthy surely the church can do it.
II Corinthians 8:4. Fellowship is ministering to the needs of others. The
Corinthians wanted Paul to accept an offering from them so that they
would be associated with or in fellowship with the work of spreading the
gospel. When we give our time, talent, and money, we are ministering and
participating in fellowship. A minister is not just a pastor, but is a
servant. Minister comes from the Greek "Diakonos" which means "Deacon". It
also comes from the Greek word "Huperetes" which is a seaman's term
meaning an under rower. In other words, a minister is not always the
Pastor or the captain of the ship. Ministers are also those under rowers
that are below the deck providing the muscle to keep the ship moving. The
Christian fellowship needs more ministers, servants, under rowers who will
serve others by giving of themselves. This is what fellowship is all
Galatians 2:9. Fellowship is approval. In this verse the leaders of the
church gave Paul and Barnabas approval to minister to the Gentiles. When
you fellowship with someone you are in essence saying, "I approve of you."
So when you shun fellowship it makes people wonder if you want to be a
part of it or not. Paul and Barnabas were given the approval to start a
new church and the church leadership gave them their blessings. Churches
are going to have different focuses, but if we all under the doctrine of
Jesus Christ, we should be able to fellowship with each other.
Philippians 3:10. Fellowship often involves suffering. We all want to be
powerful people of God with signs and wonders following, but we don't want
to suffer. The Apostle Paul understood that you don't get one without the
other. The two go hand in hand. We’re not talking about suffering because
we have done something wrong, or suffering by not having the necessities
of life. We’re talking about taking an uncompromising stand for God that
may not be popular in your home, with your friends, or on your job. This
type of stand often brings suffering in various ways. Until we can relate
to and partake in Christ's suffering we will lack the power that will
bring about a dynamic, victorious fellowship.
We’ve all heard the term “Cliques in the church”. Cliques don’t form
because people are trying to exclude others. Cliques form because people
have something in common. Every Sunday after church one group gets
together and talks computers, another group talks about sports, another
group talks about babies, shopping, work, cars, or whatever. If you don’t
feel comfortable talking about any of the subjects you feel left out. It
is ok to talk about other things in church, but we need to be careful that
we’re not forgetting why we are in church.
Sometimes a woman should be able to walk into a men’s conversation and
hear them talking about Jesus instead of sports. Sometimes a man should be
able to walk into a women’s conversation and hear them talking about Jesus
instead of babies, hair, or fashion. Sometimes people should see us
praying in small groups after service. Sometimes people should see us
sharing and comparing Bible notes after service. Not all the time, but at
least SOMETIME! Because even though we are very different, when we come to
church we all should have Jesus in common.
We need to understand this because everybody doesn’t work where you work,
shop where you shop, play like you play, or earn what you earn. And it is
shameful that people turn away a church because the people in it don’t
know how to fellowship. Your first objective after church should not be to
find your group, but to find a visitor and shake their hand. Find someone
to share Jesus with.
Step back and take a look at your fellowship. Do people take pride in what
God is doing in it? Is it enjoyable to attend? Is there a biblical
knowledge base that is continually being developed and shared? Is the
doctrine of the Bible promoted? Is there a commitment of the people to
partake ONLY in the things of God? Are people looking for ministry
opportunities? Is there an openness to what God may be trying to do
through other ministries? Are people willing to stand up for the cause of
Christ regardless to what it may cost them? This is what Christian
fellowship is all about. If we are to be successful in our mission, we
must have true Christian fellowship. Amen!