Believe in the Church as a Fellowship
The Church Fellowship
Fellowship means community
The local church is to be a fellowship in that we are to love one another, be at one with one another, and to walk in harmony with one another. Someone defined fellowship as “two fellows being in the same ship, going in the same direction.” In order to be a Christian, you must commit yourself to Christ, and in order to be a church member, you must commit yourself to the fellowship.
To be a Christian without being a part of a fellowship is like a man who wants an intimate relationship with a woman, but not willing to commit to marriage. In a marriage, commitment is not only going through a ceremony, signing a license or wearing a ring. It is also seen in a daily devotion to joyfully show loyalty to the person to whom you are committed.
Both the wedding ceremony and the daily devotion are necessary to build a committed life together. In a church fellowship, you cannot have true interdependency among the members of the fellowship if there is no commitment. Commitment begins with uniting formally and officially through church membership. It continues with unity.
Fellowship means unity
In addition to commitment, the Bible says if you have divisions and quarrels and disagreement, you do not have fellowship. Paul said he would not praise the Corinthian church because there were divisions among the people (1 Cor. 11:17). Membership in the local church is to be characterized as having one mind and judgment.
Repeatedly the Bible calls to church to “that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together” (1 Corinthians 1:10). Second Corinthians ends with the command to “be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
Paul wanted to hear the church at Philippi was of one mind and one spirit, a conduct which would be “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” If there is to be “any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy” (Philippians 2:1-2), we should have a good fellowship together.
Philippians 3:16 says a unified fellowship comes with the maturity “to the degree that we have already attained.” The church fellowship can have disagreements without divisions and without losing its call for unity. There should be no sharp bitterness or divisiveness. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul underscores the necessity of different ministries within the church, a topic we will discuss in Week 6 “Membership Means Individuality.” Unity does not mean uniformity and Christians can have differences without being divisive.
Ephesians 4:3 says “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” A good fellowship promotes unity and appreciates differences as sources of strength.
Fellowship means continuity
We also have the responsibility to continue in fellowship together as an encouragement to one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25). This is not anything new, as the early church was characterized by its fellowship of harmony, joy, worship, witness and numerical growth (Acts 2:46-47).
The Apostle John is often called the Apostle of Love, since he wrote so much on it in his letters and in his gospel. Yet he boldly stated that church members “went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us.” (1 John 2:19) Again in his second letter, he wrote, “Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has the Father and the Son.” (2 John 9)
Clearly we are to continue in fellowship. Once you leave the fellowship of one church, members should immediately seek to be united with another fellowship as soon as possible.