Fellowship is a big issue among us. Not a few books have been written about it to define what it is, to whom it extends, from whom it ought to be withdrawn.
Fellowship deserves attention. After all, we were created for it. Christ redeemed us so that it could be restored. A whole cluster of words describe it in Scripture. The noun for fellowship, communion, participation, koinonia, is found in the New Testament 17 times, but the teaching on it goes far beyond that group of terms.
In the first chapter of 1 John, the apostle states that our fellowship is with God, Christ, and one another.
What we have seen and heard we announce to you too, so that you may have fellowship with us (and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ), v. 3.
He states that this fellowship is established by means of a message. The message is the true facts about Jesus Christ. Our commitment and adherence to it maintains us in that fellowship for in it we have purification from sin by the blood of Christ, v. 7.
Besides being a big issue, fellowship ought to be a hands-on, personal practice of every Christian. Here are some challenges we face.
#1. Nothing replaces face-to-face fellowship, not even virtual contact. “Though I have many other things to write to you, I do not want to do so with paper and ink, but I hope to come visit you and speak face to face, so that our joy may be complete” 2 John 12. Text, audio and video messages still come short of personal time together.
#2. Fellowship means concrete demonstrations of support. Offerings to supply needs makes fellowship real. Paul even uses the word “fellowship” when he refers to financial contributions. Fellowship is more than a covered dish; it is an open serving of monetary assistance to saints. See Romans 15.26; 2 Corinthians 9.13; Hebrews 13.16.
#3. Fellowship reduced to eating together misses God’s greater purpose. It means sharing in sharing the gospel. When Paul mentions the Philippians “participation in the gospel from the first day until now” 1.5, he was referring to financial contributions they had sent to him. Some Bible versions miss that. Too many churches are so busy building their own programs and investing in their own growth they have lost the Great Commission.
#4. Fellowship is the active demonstration then of that fraternal love and that missionary heart which are at the center of God’s family. It is the same giving of self that God showed toward us.
While we ought not ignore the issue of whom we can or cannot fellowship — we need more attention here — we also need to devote ourselves by spending time, energy, and monies in a loving participation that will leave the world agog.