Some definitions are in order. First, when I refer to worship, I am speaking of the activities of the congregation when we come together on Sunday morning. We worship through singing and the teaching of Scripture. Both are important. Yet, a good worship experience cannot be the only aspect of church life. A great teacher and worship band may draw a crowd, but it is the addition of service and fellowship that make it a church.
Service is the acts that are done within and outside the church body to minister to specific needs. An example of service within the body would be teaching Sunday school or working on a cleaning team. Service outside the body would be typified by short term missions, or providing meals or clothing to people having physical needs. Service alone makes for a charitable organization but not a true church.
Fellowship is when members of the body share life together. When the church group starts to feel like family, then we are nibbling at the fringes of true fellowship. Yet fellowship without worship and service makes for a clique, not a church.
When one side is atrophied
If we are not coming together for singing, praise and teaching, then the church body will be fragmented and struggle to find unity. Fellowship may happen, but it will not be centered around a common vision for what God is doing in that church body.
If the acts of service are minimized, the church will become ingrown and proud in it’s attitude toward the community in general and newcomers in particular. This is a Christianity that is self serving and smug.
If we are worshipping and serving without real fellowship, then the saints will advance from feeling unappreciated to feeling abused. People will come and then drift away when they do not find the interaction that they feel should typify the true church.
In my experience of evangelical Christianity, it is the fellowship leg of the triangle that seems to suffer the most. Evangelical, Bible centered churches understand the need for good teaching and worship on Sundays. Even a cursory reading of Scripture prescribes the need for service, so opportunities to serve abound. Fellowship is a different story.
Home group Bible studies, home fellowship groups, adult fellowships, koinonia groups, etc. may be the beginning of fellowship, but they cannot be the total solution. Fellowship is not something that can be arranged with a program.
Toward Deeper Fellowship
If we are in need of deeper fellowship, how do we go about finding that depth? Here are some thoughts:
- In John 13:35 Jesus tells us that love is to be the defining mark of the Christian. If there is resentment or division in the church, those who are participating in that behavior need to repent and be restored to the opponent.
- Keep in mind that while there may be different roles in the Church, there are no differences in value. (Galatians 3:28) Everyone is to be valued, not for their giftings or accomplishments, but for the fact that Jesus sacrificed himself on their behalf.
- In Matthew 25:41 Jesus tells us that by responding to the needs of those who have no resources, it is as if we ministered directly to Jesus. By seeking to support, encourage and meet the emotional and spiritual needs of or church mates, we are ministering to Jesus.
- Each of us, no matter how strong we seem now, will come to a place where we will be needy. Since Christmas is upon us, the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” comes to mind. George Baily came to the point where he needed the community into which he had invested so much of his energy. It was there for him. So should the church be.
This certainly is not an exhaustive list. Any other ideas out there? Feel free to chime in with comments.