Christian Fellowship ó Why and With Whom?
Study No. 4
If thereís one message that comes through loud and clear from the New Testament, itís that Christians should fellowship. God knew that His children would need to maintain contact with one another for a number of very important reasons:
1. To Grow Spiritually
Just as iron sharpens iron (sometimes with heat and sparks), so one man sharpens another, Proverbs 27:17. Through contact with other Christians, our own rough edges can be smoothed over; we can learn patience, tolerance, kindness, and love. We can be exposed to various points of view, to different feelings and values. We can grow in our understanding of God, the Bible, and the Christian way of life by learning how God works in othersí lives. Through fellowship we can be educated, encouraged, inspired and exhorted. Every meeting with others can be a real learning and growing experience!
However, if we neglect Christian fellowship, as the manner of some is, we tend to stagnate and stand still spiritually ó we get into ruts and attitudes that are a far cry from what God wants.
2. To Give and Share
Fellowship provides us with an opportunity to share our talents, experiences, learning, and our time with others. Paul exhorted the Romans, "We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up," Romans 15:1-2 (NIV throughout this article).
How can we help others if we donít know their needs? How can we know their needs if we donít fellowship with them? How can we love them if we donít have contact with them? Of course, this applies to all people, but especially to our fellow Christians, Galatians 6:10.
Have you ever come away from a meeting with other Christians saying to yourself, "I didnít get a thing out of that!" How about asking, "Did I give anything?" "Did I share anything?" "Did I help anyone?" If you bury your talents in a closet or cave, you are robbing yourself of rich spiritual blessings!
3. To Worship God
We can certainly worship God privately (and should be doing so regularly). We should also sing to Him, praise Him, and pray to Him, in fellowship with other Christians. Jesus takes note especially of His brethren who are gathered in His name and promises to be among them, Matthew 18:20, ó whether there be two or three or 2,000! And God takes note of the fellowship of His children, Malachi 3:16.
4. To Enjoy
God created us as social creatures ó with an innate need to have relationships with others. We can fulfill this need through uplifting contact with other Christians. Fellowship should add a tremendous element of joy to our lives as it did for the early Christians. "Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts . . . " Acts 2:46.
Christian fellowship is not an end in itself. You donít just sit for an hour in church and say, "I had my fellowship for this week," anymore than a carpenter comes home from work and says, "I pounded with my hammer today." No! He says, "I built a wall today." He knows that the results are what counts ó not the motions. You should be able to say, "I learned a lesson in humility today," or, "I was able to put a smile on Henryís face today." Itís the results of fellowship that are important. And itís the results that should influence any personal decisions you make in determining with whom you will fellowship.
Criteria for Christian Fellowship
Here are three criteria that can help you in considering Christian fellowship.
1. Fellowship where you can grow spiritually. Whether itís in a formal meeting with hundreds of people or in a living room, or both, you should fellowship where you can mature spiritually. Any setting that stifles your growth in your relationship with Jesus Christ is not for you, Ephesians 4:11-15.
2. Fellowship where you can learn. This doesnít mean you have to agree 100% with everything taught from the pulpit or with every opinion expressed by members of a discussion group. But the positive value of what you learn should far outweigh the negatives. You just wonít be able to grow or give if most of what you hear is contrary to your understanding of Godís way. As Amos asked, "Can two walk together, except they be agreed?" Amos 3:3, KJV.
3. Fellowship where you can give and share. If a group isnít open-minded at all, if it isnít willing to let you share your experiences, talents, and time, itís a poor place for you to fellowship. You may be able to learn a few things ó but you'll have to pay a high price by never opening your mouth except to parrot the party line. Associate where you can freely give and share as well as listen and learn.
Another factor that must be considered is that of doctrinal convictions. Realize that in seeking others to fellowship with, you're not looking for the perfect group, or the true church. The true church is a spiritual organism composed of all the children of God ó itís not limited to any one human organization or denomination. So, in seeking Christian fellowship, you're not looking for the church, you're looking for a church, for a fellowship. And you donít have to agree completely on all doctrinal questions to meet with them. Romans 14 clearly indicates that Paul didnít try to make all Christians agree on all issues. He said, "Respect, donít judge!"
You can also read Revelation 2 and 3 to get a picture of the diversities and differences within the body of Jesus Christ. There are good and bad in the churches, and varying degrees of each. The important thing is that you fellowship with those who will respect and honor you as a Christian ó and that you donít judge them on disputable matters, Romans 14. Obviously some doctrines are more important than others; and, in general, the more beliefs you hold in common with others, the better your fellowship.
Unfortunately, itís very difficult to find Christians who have the kind of maturity that Romans 14 teaches. And you would be much better off worshipping regularly with a small group of 2 or 3 growing Christians of like mind than in a vaulted cathedral with hundreds of pharisees. Remember, itís the results that count ó not the motions of "going to church." Itís the spiritual growth that counts ó not putting in time. Fellowship where you can get the results God wants.
If you canít find a group of Christians where you can freely worship and grow spiritually, where you can share and learn, you may have to start your own fellowship. Begin with your own family and invite others one by one to join you for small group Bible studies, discussions, and worship. As long as you are growing in love for God and neighbor, you're on the right track.
However, if you find yourself in a comfortable rut of staying at home ó if you find itís too much trouble to find other Christians for fellowship, or to drive to Bible studies or church services, listen to the words of Hebrews 10:23-25,
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess . . . And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward 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 ó and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
ó written by Richard Wiedenheft W
God Knew Our Greatest Need
If our greatest need had been information,
God would have sent us an educator.
If our greatest need had been technology,
God would have sent us a scientist.
If our greatest need had been money,
God would have sent us an economist.
If our greatest need had been pleasure,
God would have sent us an entertainer.
But our greatest need was forgiveness,
So God sent us a Savior.
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