on Christian fellowship

I’d like to draw your attention to the subject of Christian fellowship. In my view, the subject is largely misunderstood these days. Many mean ‘having coffee with my Christian friends’ (substitute any other kind of social activity for ‘having coffee’ — that works too).

Champ Thornton at EX vilis CATHEDRA stirred my thinking on this subject with his post: “Together for What?”. I prepared two Bible study lessons from that beginning which can be found by following the links here and here.

At the outset, let me say I have nothing against ‘having coffee with my Christian friends’. You can even leave out the ‘with my Christian friends’ part! I often tell people that coffee is a Baptist distinctive: “True Baptists drink coffee … confirmed Baptists drink it black.”

But seriously, the subject of Christian fellowship involves much more than social interaction (and can be devoid of social interaction entirely).

In English, the word has come to mainly refer to social interaction. But making fellowship = social interaction reduces the term of any distinctive Christian quality. I can interact socially with anyone, saint or sinner.

As Champ points out in his article, the idea in Scripture has much more to do with ‘partnership’, a commonality of devotion to a mission and a task (the Great Commission) than it does to social interaction.

As such, I can be in fellowship with my missionary friends around the globe. In a material way (often the very meaning of fellowship in Scripture), I am in partnership with missionaries in Alaska, British Columbia, Quebec and the Marshall Islands. I join with two other families on a regular basis in Germany and Mongolia. This is one aspect of our Christian fellowship, we are partners together in the cause of Christ.

My fellowship is also an exclusive fellowship. There are some with whom I will withhold my partnership because they are tainted in some way with evil. See the Biblical separation passages for causes. Fellowship with such is impossible for me, if I want to be in perfect fellowship with the Lord. I want to partner with him, I do not want to participate in the evil deeds of others. As much as possible, I will limit my partnership with men who are compromising or corrupting the ministry of Christ as well.

While it is important for Christian people in their local churches to interact socially (in a friendly way), it is even more important that they participate together with one another in the cause of Christ. This may well take the form of deeper interaction and self-sacrifice than mere friendship. When someone in our body is suffering, every member should suffer with them in order to alleviate the trials our brethren might experience as well.

But especially we must be partners together in the cause of worldwide evangelism (even including ‘my neighbour’ evangelism). That will mean differing roles for us in our partnership in this cause: earnestly praying with one another for our individual part in the missionary enterprise; financially supporting various missionary causes locally and globally; faithfully supporting the ministry of our local church; working together locally to encourage one another’s contacts to consider Christ … and many more.

May God help us really grasp what it means to be a ‘fellow’ with fellow Christians.