Real fellowship has a supernatural source, requires supernatural gifts, and has supernatural results. For this reason, fellowship cannot happen apart from a genuine relationship with our supernatural God.
In yesterday’s post about real fellowship, we talked about how the Greek meaning of “fellowship” used in the Bible implies partnership, community, participation, and deep social intimacy. Today, I want to show you how that is possible.
The Bible says that Jesus is the “Head” of the Church (see Eph. 1:22, Eph. 5:23, and Col. 1:18); and therefore, if we–His Body–will align ourselves with Him, there will be true unity among us. A person is able to walk because his right leg is in unity with his left leg. And how does that happen? Both legs are in unity with the person’s brain. Notice that the legs aren’t doing the exact same thing (or else he would have to jump everywhere), and they’re not doing their own individual things (or else he would fall flat on his face). Rather, they work in unity with direction from the head. The only way the Body of Christ can effectively get anywhere is when we are all unified with Jesus. Only in this way can He direct all of us to do our own unique things in unity with His will (see 1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
Jesus wants to have an active relationship with Christians everywhere; and if you’re in unity with Him, then you’ll want that too! Those who subscribe to “Just Jesus and me” theology and avoid other Christians are typically wounded people who are denying the love of Christ that should be active in their hearts through relationships with other believers. Anyone who does not want to meet with other Christians is not in full unity with Jesus Christ–no matter how much they may love Him.
Three issues come up when we fail to fellowship. Firstly, as I mentioned, if we’re unified with Christ, we’ll want to be with other Christians simply because Jesus Himself wants to be with other Christians. That’s the nature of unity–His desires become our desires. Secondly, Jesus wants us to fellowship and bear one another’s burdens–to neglect this is disobedience and disregard for His desires. And thirdly, if we as Christians are collectively “the Body of Christ,” then to avoid Christ’s Body is actually to avoid Christ!
With that said, many times I’ve heard Hebrews 10:25 used as a means of getting people to attend a weekly organized church service. In fact, The Living Bible paraphrase even goes so far as to interpret, “Let us not neglect our church meetings…” But there’s something we often overlook. Take a gander at that scripture:
Hebrews 10:25–Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another–and all the more as you see the Day approaching (NIV).
Did you catch that? “…but let us encourage one another…” We have the tendency to think that the opposite of “not meeting together” is “coming together for a weekly program.” That’s just not true. The opposite of “not meeting” is actually “encouraging one another!” That means everybody encourages everybody!
Now tell me: does that typically happen in a weekly “church service” as we’re used to seeing it in America? Does every single Christian get to minister to everyone else? I’m not talking about little churches of less than twenty people. I’m talking about our traditional meetings that number fifty or more. Does it happen?
As a reminder, I’m an assistant pastor in a church organization. I’ve helped plant and grow such meetings. I’ve led music in these settings for years. I have a place in my heart for organized Christianity. But I do not–even for one instant–suggest to anyone that such meetings typically fulfill the need for true fellowship. They can set the stage for it by offering us a place to meet other Christians with whom to fellowship; but rarely does fellowship take place there. Remember, fellowship goes two ways, and a Sunday gathering usually goes one direction–from the pulpit to the pew.
These big meetings are not bad. Any healthy organized Christian “church service” will effectively meet the needs of training, equipping, and sending while encouraging people to live Kingdom-oriented lives. And all this can take place in an atmosphere of God’s manifested presence. These are good and healthy things that can definitely benefit the Body of Christ…but they are not “fellowship.” Sitting in rows and listening to one person download a “Word from God” every week can challenge and help us on individual levels, but it doesn’t meet the basic Christian need for fellowship.
There are many aspects of the Christian life that, for practical reasons, just can’t happen at a big meeting with lots of people. Consider, for instance, the following Scriptures. Notice how every person in the church is to be supernaturally involved. This is supernatural fellowship:
1 Peter 4:10–Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms. (NIV)
Galatians 6:2-3–Share each other’s burdens, and in this way obey the law of Christ. If you think you are too important to help someone, you are only fooling yourself. You are not that important.(NLT)
James 5:16–Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:26–…When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church. (NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:29-30–Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop.(NIV)
1 Corinthians 14:31–For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. (NIV)
These are the nuts and bolts of real fellowship. We would have to go out of our way for these things to happen in a traditional church meeting; but they come naturally among a small group of people who love and obey God.
Realistically, our culture is built on traditional church services, and I won’t tell you to stop attending such meetings. But please realize that your spirit has certain dietary needs, and so you need to meet those somehow if you’re going to grow in Christ at your highest potential. Remember, as I shared in my last blog post, real fellowship is the secret to healthy, rapid spiritual growth.
That’s why I’ve started a handful of small groups myself and highly recommend such meetings to you. That’s why I invest my life in other Christians and make myself vulnerable to them. That’s why I confess my sins openly, admit my weaknesses, and give public glory to God for my victories. That’s why I have a few close friends with whom I share some of the deepest parts of my life. Fellowship is absolutely necessary to Christian life.
In tomorrow’s post, I’ll share the practical steps of how to put real fellowship into action.