Recently I was part of a gathering of national pastors to pray, encourage each other and discuss ministry. Most of us knew each well and have been serving together for over a decade. We joined heads, hearts, and hands, realising that “a cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl. 4:12). “It is good and pleasant”, the Psalmist said, “when brothers dwell in unity” (Psalm 133:1). I love coming together with these men. Men I trust and love. It’s a privilege to be counted among them.
Saved from Solitude
In the Bible we learn that the world (life outside of God’s rule) is characterised by darkness, loneliness and division. The Bible also says that Christians were once “alienated” (Colossians 1:21), “strangers” (Ephesians 2:12), and “far off” (Ephesians 2:13).
God has not only saved us from sin, He has also saved us from solitude
Christian fellowship is at the core of the gospel a theological truth that works it’s way out practically in things like companionship and love. Our English word, “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word, “koinonia.” which literally means “living in community together,” or “owning something in common”. The root of the word, “fellowship,” means “to hold something in common.” Theologically, the common thing that we share as Christians is the gospel – the incarnation of The Son of God, Jesus; His substitution for our sins; and the restoration of all things because of the Resurrection of Jesus. By definition, all Christians share the truth of the gospel. This fellowship is a work of God for us. Listen to how Paul described it:
God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:4-9)
Because of the work of Jesus, all who believe by faith have this one thing in common.
A really important truth to understand is that whilst fellowship is something God does for us, it works it’s way out in action. In other words, it’s not just a truth resigned to a page in Scripture. This is so important – just because we “have” fellowship doesn’t mean that we are “doing” fellowship. “Koinonia” is used 19 times in the New Testament and in addition to being translated as “fellowship” it is also translated by the words, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.” These are verbs! These are doing!
Fellowship is not just being together because we have one thing in common. Fellowship is doing together!
Christian fellowship works it’s way out when two or more people, who are already in fellowship (common, shared faith in Jesus) are actively pursuing Him and His righteous reign with a degree of purpose, honesty and vulnerability. It serves a purpose greater than itself, namely seeing the purpose of God in others come to maturity. Thus, biblical fellowship carries with it the idea of something greater and more awesome than you may have ever imagined – we are demonstrating unity in a world that is characterised by darkness, loneliness and division.
Maxed out Fellowship
So how can we “max out” the fellowship that we have. Or, to put it another way, how can we “do” fellowship? Here’s some brief suggestions:
– Invest time.
I’ve perhaps started with the most difficult but also the most needed. The honest answer to the issue of time is that we always make time for things that are important to us. It’s easy for us to get wrapped up in our won agendas and use time as an excuse, at the expense of other people. In other words, if we want to develop relationships with others, “actively pursuing Him and His righteous reign with a degree of purpose, honesty and vulnerability” we must be willing to invest our time.
When it comes to setting the course of our own lives the most powerful tool available to us is the ability to say “Yes” to some things and “No” to others.
Action: look at your calendar and ask yourself: who can I make time for this week?
– Embrace the right attitudes and priorities.
Investing time means that we have to embrace the right attitude and set the right priorities. If we can spend an hour watching tv and claim we don’t have “enough time” we’re simply fooling ourselves. The forging of biblical fellowship requires a Christ-enabled commitment to love God and love one another, a commitment to pursue Christ and your friend’s highest welfare in Christ.
Action: prayerfully consider if you are making excuses at the expense of others. Are you using your time, talent and treasures for the Kingdom?
– Get off social media
At least, don’t believe that can have deep relationships via twitter of Facebook. Our faith is a “face-to-face” faith. Words are inescapably central. (God’s first revelation of Himself in Scripture is that He speaks. The second is that His words have power. The gospel is communicated one person to another through words. We sing and pray to God using words. We encourage one another in the faith through words.) Have I made my point? In the end if we want the kind of relationships that are actively pursuing Him and His righteous reign we need to be people who relish the opportunity simply to talk. Do this by sharing a meal or going for a long walk together. The point is, words have power and we must be prepared to use them for God’s glory and our benefit. Make the “God points” in the conversation like “How can I pray for you?”, “what is God teaching you?”, “where are you currently experiencing God’s grace”, “what is bringing joy to your heart?”
Action: contact someone this week and arrange a short coffee meet up. Ask some “fellowship” questions. Afterwards review how this kind of fellowship encouraged your own walk with the Lord.
It took God commitment to save us from solitude. It takes commitment from us to do fellowship.