I think Fellowship has a branding problem. Growing up, a Church Fellowship meant one thing. The Church was going to buy a whole bunch of fried chicken and everyone with the last name A-M would bring a side dish and everyone N-Z would bring a dessert. I’m all about eating 5 different types of Macaroni and Cheese so sure, I liked Church Fellowships. Unfortunately, that’s pretty much all they were (for me.) I’d sit with our friends and I’d debate internally on how to determine if I crossed the line into gluttony. Is gluttony based on percentage of my weight eaten in a single meal, or does it have something to do with my volume? I’m not sure where the “glutton” line is, but I know I’ve crossed it.
The early church certainly brought food to church, believe me, I’m not trying to change that time-honored tradition. But they brought food for a seemingly much different reason. People brought all that they could. Some could barely bring a few eggs, others maybe some bread, and obviously there were those who could bring nothing at all. However, there were of course others who were capable of bringing more than that, and they did. Everyone brought what they could, and everyone was able to eat, even if it was only for one day in the week. People couldn’t believe the generosity of the Christians in how they took care of one another. The community wanted to be part of something like that.
Looking through Scripture, I see 4 aspects that compose Christian Fellowship. These are commitments because they do not come naturally with the nature of man. Our sinful attitudes lead us to division, secrets, greed, and isolation. Fellowship on the other hand is a desire for unity, accountability, charity, and mobility.
You commit to seek unity around Jesus Christ with fellow believers. You will not gossip, tear-down, or cause division in your local church or the church at-large. You will encourage, build-up, and serve in your local church as well as regularly attend to accomplish those acts. You will continually seek what Scripture says and not disagree with what it clearly means, and you will seek peaceable solutions with fellow believers in areas where the Scriptures are not as clear.
You commit to hold your fellow believers accountable. You will not turn-away from sin that needs to be confronted, but will instead lovingly speak to those in your church. You also agree to be held accountable. This means you promise to listen to and evaluate everything that is spoken to you by the elders, leaders, and fellow believers, and will be proactive in getting the accountability and discipleship you need to deepen your relationship with Christ.
You commit to give of your time, money, energy, spiritual gifts, and talents to serve your church. You will make doing so an intentional priority in your life and not just give your “leftovers.” When your church is in need you will commit to pray and see if there is anything specific that God is calling you to. You are to be a good steward in all aspects of your life. You will do whatever you are able to serve your own family and the other families in your church.
You commit to being obedient to Christ’s Mission. You will love your neighbor as yourself by answering the call to make disciples. You will seek to do good in your circle of influence, and you will be looking at all peoples in your life as a potential disciple. You will also continually pray about wherever God would have you go and whatever God would have you do for His Kingdom and for His glory.
Each of these 4 aspects depends on the others. If you pull one of these out the rest will eventually begin to crumble. Think about it. If you don’t seek to be unified, why would they ever trust you to keep them accountable? If you aren’t willing to be kept accountable for your actions, how would you be a good witness out in the world? If you aren’t charitable in any way, why would people think you care about them in any way? If you aren’t mobile in your ministry and just wait for people to come to you, eventually you won’t interact with anyone.
Ultimately, the rebranding of Fellowship is needed to take this from a passive event into a purposeful action. You could eat with people every week and never fully engage in Fellowship. Be the change you want to see in your church!
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