Acts 2:42 tells us that the early church devoted themselves to four pursuits: the apostles’ teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers. If fellowship is in this important list, then we should consider what it is and how to pursue it in our own lives.
In my experience, we can be surrounded by a large group of people in a church, but not really know them or have true fellowship with them. Fellowship, by definition, means having a friendly association with people who share common interests, but, in biblical terms, there is a deeper meaning. The word “fellowship” in the New Testament comes from a Greek word which is transliterated as koinonia. It usually refers to Christian fellowship or communion with fellow Christians, but sometimes the word is also translated as “sharing,” “participation,” or “contribution.”
True fellowship involves communing, sharing, participating, and contributing in the lives of others. In other words, living life together. While I have nothing against typical church Sunday School classes, meeting for an hour on Sunday morning does not constitute living life together. It simply isn’t enough time to be participating in someone else’s life in a significant way. Fellowship involves sharing significant quantities of time together – eating, talking, sharing your struggles, dialoging about what you are learning in God’s Word.
Jesus certainly modeled this type of interaction with others in the way he lived life with His disciples. He was eating, travelling, talking, and ministering with them. Along the way, He taught them, rebuked them, and encouraged them. The disciples spent extended periods of time with Jesus. They interacted with Him in all types of situations. They learned by His example. They asked Him questions. They shared their concerns with Him. In order for us to have this type of interaction with people, we have to find ways to spend consistent time together, whether that means meeting in homes for a meal and Bible study, or getting coffee together while sharing the challenges of your week, or any number of other possibilities for living life together with other believers.
As we pursue fellowship with other Christ followers, we also need to consider how intentional we are in our interactions. We can spend a considerable amount of time with people and still not have true fellowship. There are really two components of true fellowship among Christians: quantity time and quality time. By quality time I mean focusing on conversation that is building up and spurring on in our pursuit of Christ. We could meet with a group of fellow Christians and chat about the weather, our families, our kids’ soccer games, and our jobs, but we might never get around to talking about anything of spiritual significance. This type of interaction is not really true fellowship. While it might be enjoyable, it isn’t the kind of interaction that will challenge us to pray more or encourage us in reading God’s Word. Our interactions in fellowshipping with other believers need to be encouraging us, challenging us, teaching us, and, even rebuking us. This is the example Jesus modelled for us in how He interacted with the disciples. He used the everyday interactions of life with them to teach, encourage, challenge, and rebuke. He was intentional in the way He interacted with them, so that they would benefit from the time together. That type of intentionality needs to characterize our interactions as well.
As we think about genuine biblical fellowship, it might be helpful to ask ourselves two questions. First of all, am I seeking to spend significant amounts of time with other believers with the intention of having true fellowship with them? And secondly, am I intentional in the types of conversations I have when I am spending time with other Christians?
If the answer to the first question is, “No,” then consider how you can prioritize spending more time with other like-minded Christ followers. For me, creating those kind of opportunities means hosting a group in our home every Tuesday night for dinner and Bible study. It also means having a small group of ladies who I meet with twice a month for fondue and Bible study. These times of true fellowship are growing me in my walk with Christ, as well as forging deep bonds between those of us who are meeting together.
If the answer to the second question is, “No,” then make a decision that you are intentionally going to talk about topics that will help both you and the people with whom you are talking to grow as Christ followers. Focus on asking someone what they are learning through prayer and Bible reading or ask how you can pray for them. Share how God has answered prayer in your life recently or offer words of encouragement from verses you have been reading. There are countless ways you can steer a conversation in a direction that will yield spiritual benefit.
Scripture encourages us to consider how we may spur each other on toward love and good deeds (Hebrews 10:24) and to be like iron that sharpens iron (Proverbs 27:17). Fellowship provides an opportunity to follow both of those admonitions. It is also a means of deepening relationships with other believers and growing as followers of Christ. Genuine fellowship was a focus of the early church, and it a focus worthy of our pursuit as well.