When my children were younger, I spent most of my week at the church. Tuesdays and Thursdays the little ones had pre-school, Wednesdays were AWANA and a bible study with the pastor, Thursday mornings were also a ladies bible study, Sundays were worship service, and other days our group of ladies (many with multiple (3+) children) would take our crew on outings. It was not unusual to see five ladies and around 20 children frolicking about. It was exactly what I needed at the time…a support group while I was going through some of the darkest days. I do not miss that time in my vapor of a life (James 4:14) but I most certainly miss the fellowship. It never ceases to amaze me how God takes care of us and gives us what we need. I needed those ladies to help keep me sane! It was essential to my health and wellbeing that I was surrounded by a “support group”. I do not have family anywhere close by but these ladies were “the body of Christ” and my church “family”. It was wonderful. Today, we are scattered about in different cities and even various states in the U.S. (United States), but I love them still.
Then, was one of the two times I have grown the most while walking in the Spirit. I truly believe being in God’s word every day and the company we keep makes all the difference!
It’s a shame the word “fellowship” has fallen on hard times in some circles, and is dying the death of domestication and triviality. It is an electric reality in the New Testament, an indispensable ingredient in the Christian faith, and one of God’s chief means of grace in our lives.
The koinonia — the commonality, partnership, fellowship — which the first Christians shared wasn’t a common love for pizza, pop, and a nice clean evening of fun among the fellow churchified. It was their common Christ, and their common life-or-death mission together in his summons to take the faith worldwide in the face of impending persecution.
Rightly did Tolkien call his nine a “Fellowship of the Ring.” This is no chummy hobnob with apps and drinks and a game on the tube. It is an all-in, life-or-death collective venture in the face of great evil and overwhelming opposition. True fellowship is less like friends gathered to watch the Super Bowl, and more like players on the field in blood, sweat, and tears, huddled in the backfield only in preparation for the next down. True fellowship is more the invading troops side by side on the beach at Normandy, than it is the gleeful revelers in the street on V.E. Day. (By David Mathis. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org.)
John Piper directs me to Acts when considering what “fellowship” looks like. He notes Acts 1–2, Acts 2:46, Acts 4:31, Acts 13:2, and Acts 16:25. Further, he explains his own heart so beautifully I have to echo it here. He says,
Believe me, I love fellowship. I love to be with people of like mind and heart. I love my main support group, the pastoral staff of this church, and our hours together each week. But my life is so short, and my meeting with the Lord face to face is so imminent and so real, and my desires to make a 100% return on God's investment of grace in my life are so strong, that I am just not interested in any kind of fellowship that does not help people explode with more love, more compassion, more joy, more holiness, and more zeal for God, and more boldness in witness, more power in ministry, more vision for missions. And I do not believe that this disenchantment of mine with self-contained, unfruitful, ineffective fellowship is a personal quirk. I think it's an echo in my heart—and yours—of the explosive fellowship we hear about in the book of Acts.
O, I want us all to be in small groups! I want every person in this church to know the sweet taste of camaraderie and belonging and family at-homeness and unity of spirit and oneness of mind that is the heart in New Testament, Christian fellowship—and so precious and indispensable in my life. But I want everything we do in our groups—whether we are studying Scripture, reading a book, focusing on singles issues, marriage issues, supporting a missionary, targeting the inner-city, praying for children—whatever the focus is, I pray that everything that happens in the small groups will be explosive—will produce explosives or ignite the fuse of explosives or toss explosives. I hope that the mindset of every small group is to serve an explosion of love and compassion and truth and joy and worship and power and ministry.
And the reason I feel warranted by God this morning to express this so strongly is because I see in the book of Acts that this is the kind of fellowship that carried the Christian movement from 120 disciples on the day of Pentecost to 5,000 Christians in Jerusalem alone in a matter of months, and then planted that movement all over the known world in a few short decades. (By John Piper. ©2014 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org)
46And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.(Acts 2:46-47. ESV.)