Fellowship

Discussion and debate not related to prophecy.

Fellowship

Postby Resurrection Torchlight on Wed Jul 13, 2016 1:11 pm

Hi All, a friend of mine and I were discussing fellowship the other day, and she asked me if I would put together a short study on the topic. We were commiserating together concerning the lack Christian fellowship within our respective local churches. I think we were both of the mindset that we shouldn't look for it there, and that we even don't need to go to church to get fellowship. However, after looking to the word, I am not so convinced that this is the case. As believers we need one another. We cannot function as a body with only an arm, and a leg. God gave us as members of His Body and we function best as a body that is complete. That is not to say that we cannot have wonderful fellowship with individuals, or that one person cannot have a profound affect for Christ on their own, but as human beings we tend to gravitate toward those who agree with us, not necessarily those who will sharpen us and make us accountable to the word and spur us on to good works in Christ.

What follows is the study I put together, I hope it will be of some small benefit to you all.


What is “fellowship”?

In today’s Christian culture, when we hear the word “fellowship” what goes through our mind? Attending church on Sunday? Perhaps going to prayer meeting? Going to a bible study? Maybe it’s watching a Church service on TV or listening to a message on the radio.

Biblically the word “fellowship” or koinonia [koy•nohn•ee•ah] in the Greek, as it is used throughout the New Testament means; “association, community, communion, joint participation, intercourse, the share which one has in anything, participation.” The Greek root word koinonos [koy•no•nos] means “companion, partner, associate”.

Marion Webster’s dictionary defines “fellowship” as: “companionship, company, a community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience, the state of being an associate, a company of equals or friends, an association”.

Christian fellowship could then be defined as a friendly association with other believers. As fellow followers of Christ we belong to a community that shares the same beliefs, that partner together to accomplish shared goals. It is more than just attending a service, or praying together, it involves intimacy and relationship.

The first mention in the New Testament is in the following passage:

Acts 2:41-43
41 So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls.
42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.


These new believers didn’t just go to church on Sunday and forget about each other the rest of the week; the passage says that they were continually devoted to the apostles teachings and to fellowship and to the breaking of bread and prayer. If we continue reading in the passage we can see how this devotion to fellowship played out in their lives:
Acts 2:44-47
44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.


They shared their wealth with each other so no one would lack, they went to one another’s homes to celebrate the Lord’s Supper, and they practiced hospitality by gladly sharing meals together. In short, they wanted to be together, they sincerely desired to share the joy of their new found faith with each other continually.

Looking back to the early days of my own life as a believer I can relate to this idea, I could not get enough “fellowship”, be it in church, in prayer, in bible study, partnering in some kind of service project, or in sharing a meal in the home of a fellow believer. Those early days were exciting ones for me as a new follower of Christ, over time however, as the newness wore off, the initial excitement waned, though I still enjoyed fellowship with others, it lacked that same sense of awe.

Did the early church maintain that same sense of awe and camaraderie that they as new believers initially enjoyed?

We know that throughout the epistles Paul admonishes the churches concerning conflicts, quarrels and division, sin and false teachings. Over time the enthusiasm of new found faith faded and those who had shared such sweet fellowship began to turn against one another, it is not much different for us in the church today. In his attempts to admonish, Paul always directed the church back to their faith in Christ, to the teaching of His words and toward loving one another.

He reminded them that they were first called to fellowship with Christ and the Holy Spirit:
1 Corinthians 1:9
9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


2 Corinthians 13:14
14 The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.


He made sure they understood that those who partner in Christ’s righteousness cannot also partner with lawlessness:
2 Corinthians 6:14-16
14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?
15 Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
16 Or what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; just as God said,
“I WILL DWELL IN THEM AND WALK AMONG THEM;
AND I WILL BE THEIR GOD, AND THEY SHALL BE MY PEOPLE.


The apostle John reminds the church of the same; our partnership is first and foremost with the Father and His son Jesus Christ
1 John 1:1-3
1 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—
2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—
3 what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.


He too reminds us that we cannot have fellowship with God and also walk in the darkness of this world:
1 John 1:5-7
5 This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.
6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth;
7 but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.


It is our belief in Christ that brings us into fellowship with Him, with God the Father and with the Holy Spirit. It is by the death and resurrection of Jesus and through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that we can share in Christ’s righteousness, and that makes us able to walk by His power so that we might live in a manner that pleases God.

John 14:20-26
20 “In that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you.
21 “He who has My commandments and keeps them is the one who loves Me; and he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and will disclose Myself to him.”
22 Judas (not Iscariot) said to Him, “Lord, what then has happened that You are going to disclose Yourself to us and not to the world?”
23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.
24 “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.
25 “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you.
26 “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.


John tells us that if we love Jesus and keep His word that His Father will love us and that He and the Father will come and dwell with us. That is “fellowship”; loving and abiding with one another.

Jesus abides in us and we abide with Him, fellowship cannot happen by oneself, it takes relationship:

John 15:4-11
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.
6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.
7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.
8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.
9 “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.
10 “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.


Perhaps when we find ourselves lacking Christian fellowship, the first thing we should do is rekindle our fellowship with our Savior. John gives us insight into how we might do so, by keeping His word, Jesus tells us to keep His commandments. In order to keep His word, we need to know what it says. We are told that the Holy Spirit reminds us, but we are also privileged to have the Scriptures. The Bible is God’s love letter to us; it is one of the greatest means of communication we have from our Lord. Like the early church, we need to continually devote ourselves to its teachings.
2 Timothy 3:14-17
14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.


John says that “if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another”. Therefore we must first have fellowship with Christ so that we might have fellowship with one another. It is our common bond of faith that brings us together in fellowship; if we lose sight of our faith, our fellowship will be ineffective.

Paul writes to Philemon, commending him for his love of the faith which he has toward Jesus and toward all the saints:

Philemon 3-7
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers,
5 because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints;
6 and I pray that the fellowship of your faith may become effective through the knowledge of every good thing which is in you for Christ’s sake.
7 For I have come to have much joy and comfort in your love, because the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.

The fellowship of our faith is effective through the knowledge that Christ is at work in us to sanctify us; producing “every good thing which is in us”. Our faith and love for the Lord becomes an encouragement for others.

In the book of Hebrews we are told that one way we can stimulate others to love and good deeds is to assemble together, in order to encourage one another in our faith.

Hebrews 10:19-25
19 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus,
20 by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh,
21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God,
22 let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful;
24 and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds,
25 not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.


Assembling together can take many forms; the early church as we are told in Acts, gathered together in the temple and in one another’s homes. Today, we as believers gather together in our local churches, and also in other venues, including each other’s homes. The point of gathering together is fellowship, and the result of fellowship is encouragement in our faith, whether it be in a large assembly or just a gathering of two. When we are together as believers we support one another in our shared faith. Our enthusiasm and love for Christ and His word “stimulates” others to desire the same zeal, we in effect act as a sharpener for the faith of others.

If you have found yourself in need of fellowship, first check your relationship with Christ; are you in fellowship with Him? Then foster opportunities to fellowship with like minded believers, be it in a large group setting such as church, or just one other. Talk to each other about your faith and what the Lord has done and is doing in your life. Pray together, encourage one another.

There are believers in this world who sadly have real obstacles that prevent them from fellowshipping with each other, those who reside in places where they suffer persecution because of their faith and we should pray that God encourages them and support those ministries that reach out to them. We here in America have the freedom to assemble, the freedom to fellowship openly; let us not squander the opportunities that our brothers and sisters under persecution would literally die for.


Questions:

• What do you think about when you hear the word “fellowship”?
• Are you enjoying fellowship with Christ on a personal level?
• In what ways do you enjoy fellowship with others?
• What kinds of things can hamper our fellowship with each other?
• What steps can you take to be deliberate in fostering fellowship with others?
• How are you encouraging other believers in their faith?




RT
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Re: Fellowship

Postby Resurrection Torchlight on Tue Jul 19, 2016 5:00 am

Fellowship part 2


In the past forty years as a follower of Christ I have attended four different churches for a number of years each and visited several others. What I have experienced in the last ten years is a Church in decline. I remember hearing as a young believer that the Church was one generation away from extinction; personally I think we may be getting precariously close to crossing that line. If something doesn’t change soon many of our local churches will no longer be the beacons of God’s word that they once were.

In its attempt to appeal to the “seeker” and to grow the church numerically, many local churches have begun to look more and more like a consumer driven organization, complete with CEO style leadership, auditoriums fashioned after theaters, media driven content, coffee shops and book stores. Consider this warning issued in a book written thirty seven years ago by a former pastor of one of the churches I attended:

“There is also an underlying concern throughout this book. It lies in the growing preoccupation in the Church with subjectivity, the yearning for experiences. The writer desires a return to the Pauline format, sound doctrine out of which wells practical experience. Today many seem to desire to hurdle over sound doctrine and plunge into religious experience alone.”

This was published shortly after I became a believer, when the church still had an organist, and we all used hymnals, when people still dressed up to go to church, long before the church growth movement took hold and before so many churches adopted the “Purpose Driven Model”. I am not claiming that organists, hymns and wearing dress clothes are what made my early church experience so wonderful. What really made it great was the solid biblical teaching of the doctrines of the faith both in sermons and in Sunday school classes for the young and old alike along with youth leaders that taught us how to live according to the scriptures. What I have experienced over the past decade or so, is just what Pastor Roberts warned of, a church that seeks experience rather than sound doctrine. Many in the church today confuse emotionalism with spirituality, if you aren’t feeling a certain way you cannot possibly be led by the Spirit and if you refuse to jump on the emotional bandwagon, you are considered a naysayer, someone who just wants to be contrary, a troublemaker. When doctrine is overshadowed by “experience” in the church, fellowship suffers, or better said; people who desire Christian fellowship suffer. According to scripture our fellowship with fellow believers is born out of our fellowship with Christ Himself. But when people fail to adhere to the doctrines and teachings of scripture and do not devote themselves to God’s word as the early church did (Acts 2:42), then what is our fellowship focused on?

One of the churches I attended was a large church; the sanctuary seated around 3,000 people. We attended there for three years, and in all that time not one person introduced themselves to us, though we introduced ourselves to many. People came and went and didn’t connect at all. The Pastor himself set the tone, leaving the platform after the service through a rear door and not staying to mingle with the congregation. In our attempt to make connections we attended a small group for a short time, which was participating in a video bible study series. It was apparent to my husband and I that the video was not focused on scripture but rather on “experience”. They were friendly folks who meant well but their scriptural understanding mirrored the shallow depth of the teaching.

In another church we attended, I wanted to lead a women’s bible study that I wrote about sanctification. I gave a copy to the Pastor and met with him to discuss it. He indicated that he felt my study was “too deep”, and that it was better to “keep the cookies on the bottom shelf”. Imagine my reaction when I later found out that the “cookies” he was serving up to the congregation weren’t even his own, they were the store bought variety. He purchased his sermons from an online resource and preached verbatim from a transcript, passing them off as his own. How can a Pastor encourage people to study the word of God when He isn’t studying it himself? How could I fellowship with someone who doesn’t take the word of God seriously? That same Pastor also cautioned me against forming close relationships with those in my bible study. Not only was he not serving up any meat in his messages but fellowship was the least of his concerns for his congregation, he was clearly more concerned with numbers and what was going into the offering plate, than on the spiritual well being of his flock.

Another church we attended was lively and the people were enthusiastic in their worship, gatherings and meetings were well attended. However what we found was that there too was a lack of doctrinal depth in the preaching and a corresponding lack of understanding among the congregation. The focus was the church organization itself and not so much the word of God and the Lord. The people were caring, and kindhearted, but they were more interested in having a good time together than they were on studying God’s word. We attended a small group in this church also and when we discussed what we should do, one person suggested that we make it a time for fun activities, mind you; this person had a prominent place of influence in the church. We were also told when we offered to lead a small group in our home that it was more about building relationships than about teaching the Bible. Don’t get me wrong, relationship building is very commendable but instead of focusing on building stronger relationships with the Lord they were more intent on fostering relationships with each other. There was a lot said about the bible, many topical messages that were backed up with scripture, but the teaching was shallow and again this was reflected in the understanding among those who attended. We desired to fellowship around God’s word and the work He had and was doing in our lives, but these folks were more interested in having a good time. We had great times together, doing fun things and enjoying each other’s company, we met some terrific people, but we had a hard time finding the kind of fellowship that encouraged us in our faith.

I was beginning to think that perhaps the local church was not where we were going to find true Christian fellowship, and certainly as the church undergoes decline it has become harder and harder to come by. Indeed I am almost to the point of throwing in the towel when it comes to the local church; it is a sad state of affairs. I am sure that amidst the churches I have visited and attended that there are God loving people of faith who take God’s word seriously and that there are also churches out there that are teaching the doctrines of the faith and sharing in fellowship, but they are growing fewer in number and harder to find amidst the local bodies of believers who have bought into the modern church growth model, opting for experience instead of the teaching of God’s word.

I am convinced that the enemy would be glad to see us throw in the towel and call it a day. He would love nothing more than to have God’s people believe that they can “go it alone”.
In all of these churches I am certain that there are people there who hunger for the word, who desire to grow in their understanding, they just need someone to encourage them and to teach them the way. If those that are more mature in the faith walk away, who will set the example for those new to the faith? Will they remain ignorant to their need for spiritual maturity and continue as babes in their understanding, forever in search of the next experience, the next serving of cookies and milk?

Although we might suffer a shortage of true Christian fellowship, we must realize that walking away from the church will ensure that trend continues in our lives and in the lives of others we may have influenced. We must be willing to step up to the plate, even when we are experiencing that need for fellowship ourselves, by putting the needs of others above our own, we have to do what we can with the gifts and talents that God has entrusted to us, to encourage this generation of Christians to grow in their faith and to hold fast to it.

If we don’t do so, who will?


RT
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Re: Fellowship

Postby mark s on Tue Jul 19, 2016 8:16 am

Hi RT,

Firstly, thank you for these articulate and well though out posts!

I'd simply like to respond that as you've concluded, this has been my answer also. While I do not feel that all my needs are met in my church, I've decided it more important to be the one to meet other people's needs. What I've found over the years of doing that is that this is actually how my needs are being met.

So surprise, surprise, the Bible is right again! Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord we are being transformed into His image, from glory to glory. Do the work of the Lord, and you become more like the Lord who is doing His work through you.

And what better field to work in than one under-watered and filled with weeds!

Love in Christ,
Mark
ειπεν αυτη ο ιησους εγω ειμι η αναστασις και η ζωη ο πιστευων εις εμε καν αποθανη ζησεται
. . . saying to her Jesus, I AM the resurrection and the life, the one believing into Me even dying shall live . . .
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Re: Fellowship

Postby Resurrection Torchlight on Tue Jul 19, 2016 12:27 pm

Thanks Mark,

It has been a weary road for us, navigating the local church, trying to find a place that appreciates our gifts and talents. We have pretty much been denied the opportunity to share our knowledge and understanding in most of the local churches we have attended, so now we are back in our home church after 7 years away. We were forced out from there by the previous pastor and some men in leadership. There were many factors at play, but I think one of the big ones was that those in leadership were intimidated by the strength of our faith and the confidence we had in the gifts and talents my husband and I posses, though we never used our understanding to club others over the head, or ever treated others as inferior. All we ever desired was to help lead others on the path to Christ and maturity in Him.

Going back has been interesting, I still feel like I am viewing the whole scenario through a telescope from some far off place. The people who pushed us out are all gone, which is a direct answer to prayer. However we have no illusions about what happened or that the rest of the church did nothing to stop it. We know who they are we know that even though they have welcomed us back with open arms and have really gone overboard to show us their love and desire to see us involved again, we may in fact end up in the same position. But our view has matured in the 7 years we were away, at least here we know we have an opportunity to use our gifts, even if for only a season, even if in the end we end up being maligned and pushed out again. I am willing to take that risk for the sake of those we might influence for the kingdom.

But please pray for us, that we would seek God's wisdom and His plan for our involvement. That we would not get ahead of Him especially in light of our eagerness to re- engage in ministry. We want to be involved in the way that He would want us to and we also need to be sensitive toward those who have stepped in to fill our shoes in our absence.

RT
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Re: Fellowship

Postby Resurrection Torchlight on Fri Jul 22, 2016 5:58 am

So surprise, surprise, the Bible is right again! Beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord we are being transformed into His image, from glory to glory. Do the work of the Lord, and you become more like the Lord who is doing His work through you.


That is the truth, thank you Mark!


RT
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