— WHAT IS FELLOWSHIP?
We continue our reflections on the church with its purpose and practices by exploring fellowship. Some one was once asked, “what is fellowship?” their reply, ‘isn’t that a cup of coffee and cookie after church on Sunday morning.’
Is that what fellowship is? Well, fellowship certainly can begin with a cup of coffee, but the full meaning and purpose of fellowship does not end there.
In one respect fellowship could be defined as the opportunity to make or maintain friendships. This leads to ask a very important question. What are friendships built on in the church? What is the purpose of friendships and fellowship in the life of the church?
It is a bold and rather candid statement to make, but it is a reality; some people become a member of a church just to increase their social contacts for business purposes. Then there are others that become a part of the church just to verify their good moral upstanding image in the community.
But the Lord's purpose for friendship and fellowship in the church is quite different. The Lord's teachings are found in the Holy Scriptures. They could be summarized in the statement “Love one another as I love you.” John 15:12.
How do we live the truth of the Lord's teachings for the church? Every time we see the phrase “one another” in the book of Acts or the writings of the Apostle Paul; we learn what it means to experience the blessedness of friendship or fellowship that is built on the truth and love of Jesus. We will discover that it is much, much, more than just friendship and fellowship built on common interests like sports, music, service clubs, school activities, or like minded values in the areas of family, politics, morals, or mutual interests in hobbies, similar ages or life experiences. Now please don't take what has just been said in the wrong way. Friendships built around these things are good and can certainly be entry points in the development of relationships in the life of the church.
However, the ultimate purpose or blessing of friendship and fellowship in the church is our mutual experience of God's love and forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ as our Lord & Saviour. I’m reminded of a statement by William George Spencer, “The church should be the society of the forgiven & the forgiving.”
The ultimate purpose, blessing and benefit of friendships and fellowship in the church is where people are sharing and rejoicing in the experiences of God's love, grace, goodness, His forgiveness, the peace that passes all understanding, power and strength, care and compassion, discipline and growth. This is realized only as we discover the truth about the Lord's intended purpose for fellowship. The following story communicates some very blessed truths about friendship and fellowship as the Lord intended it to be.
One winter in Chicago, a young man was happily converted to the Lord. His life was so radically changed that not a soul who knew him doubted the depth and genuineness of God's work of grace in his heart. He lived obeying the Lord for many months. One stormy evening in November, after business hours, he was on his way home when he was delayed by an open drawbridge with a large, brightly lit bar beside it.
He had often frequented such places before his conversion, but never since that time. This evening, however, as he waited for the bridge to turn and let him through, he stepped into the bar for no other reason than to get out of the pelting sleet. Suddenly, all the familiar temptations closed in on him, and almost before he was aware of his danger, he had ordered a drink. One drink led to another, and before he left the place he was partially intoxicated. Before he reached home he despaired of his salvation. “My family, my friends, the church, will all know about it,” He groaned within himself. “No one will have any confidence in me. I am disgraced, lost.”
Two young men from his church, who had seen him leave the bar came up to him before He reached his home and said, “Charlie, don't go home tonight. Come with us and we'll take care of you. We promise that no one in the world will ever hear a word from us about what happened tonight.” They encouraged him, saying that God would forgive and restore him. Next morning he was himself again. They knelt together in earnest prayer, and when he rose from his knees; it was with glad assurance of pardon and God's favor restored. This young man never again yielded to such a temptation and went on to become a successful minister of the gospel.
(Taken from Illustrations of Bible Truths compiled by Spiros Zodhiates)
In the next several issues of the newsletter we will explore the importance and blessedness of fellowship. We will discover that fellowship can be much, much more than a cup of coffee and a cookie. Until next time, take fellowship a little deeper and make use of the opportunity with your friends at church. Ask them to share, how long they have been a part of Ramsey Church and what are some of the special memories that they have?
Striving to Serve,
-Pastor Perry DeGroot