If there's one thing God has been showing me recently, it's the value of fellowship and having a long-term perspective. Fellowship by definition involves some important ingredients:
1. Companionship; society; consort; mutual association of persons on equal and friendly terms;
2. Partnership; joint interest; as fellowship in pain.
3. Company; a state of being together.
Christ designed his church around relationships; first with himself, then our families, then each other. He has gifted us to edify one another, and to function as individual members, yet together as part of a singular body. You're a hand, he's an ear, she's an arm, I'm a knee, etc., We are placed together according to his design and purpose.
But our usefulness to each other is based on how close we are to Christ, and how close we are to each other. If we're distant from either, we won't be effective ministers.
We Americans tend to be time and results oriented. We give a stranger on the phone or at our front door nano seconds to get to the point, don't we? That's me to a “T”. We're busy, we're trying to get things done so we can move on to the next thing.
Are we sometimes like that when it comes to our church fellowship too? Do we faithfully go to church, but even before we sing the first song we're already thinking about what we're going to do with the rest of the day? Do we ever look at relationships as just too much work?
Real church fellowship is a dying art from my perspective. Relationships take time, they can hurt, and can push us out of our comfort zones. Even with the best of intentions we'll be misunderstood, our charity will be taken advantage of, and our kindness mistaken for weakness. In short, fellowship can be messy, but it's also a gold mine of blessings!
James 5:16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.
Proverbs 18:24 A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron; so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12 Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour. For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow: but woe to him that is alone when he falleth; for he hath not another to help him up. Again, if two lie together, then they have heat: but how can one be warm alone? And if one prevail against him, two shall withstand him; and a threefold cord is not quickly broken.
Looking at my own life, I've been so doctrinally focused sometimes, that I've missed the other equally important aspects of the kingdom of God like fellowship. I chose to dwell on our disagreements rather than on where we did agree. I overlooked the person and the friendship while trying to win an argument.
May I urge us all to reconsider the importance of church fellowship? Set the program aside and get to really know the other believers around us. Invite people into our lives and forget trying to sway others over to our doctrinal view for a season. Let trust and the genuine love of Christ develop in our hearts, and let's see what God will do with all of us!
I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3)