We seem to have difficulty with the word “fellowship.” In Christian circles, the idea of fellowship means a variety of things: hanging out after church service, grabbing a cup of coffee and talking about hockey, or the weather, your work, school. In other words, simply catching up on our lives. The term “fellowship” is properly meant to be used for a group of people who band together for a common cause – or to describe those who combine their resources in order to accomplish something they could not accomplish on their own. Would church feel different if we had “fellowship” like that? We must make a distinction between getting together to talk, and getting together to plan for and accomplish gospel advancement. It would change forever how we conduct and operate fellowship groups.
In Philippians 1:3-5, the apostle Paul says to the church, “I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership (fellowship) in the gospel from the first day until now.” The Greek word for ‘fellowship’ is koinonia, which in the English Standard Version of the Bible is translated as “partnership.” That really does get at the core of this word. Fellowship is about a partnership that has been formed in order to accomplish something significant. In the case of the Philippians church, it was to drive the gospel into the heart of the Roman Empire.
What does true fellowship demand of us?
- A GOSPEL-CENTRED VISION- We need to see how great the gospel is and how God has called us to partner with each other in pressing the good news forward into the heart of our country.
- UNITY- Many of us know that having vision is one thing – but if it is pursued alone, it will result in nothing. Unity is a tough thing for us in a culture that promotes self-fulfillment. We must be willing to say, “for me to live is Christ – and to die is gain.” Unity means we set aside our own desires for the sake of the gospel in the company of others. In Philippians 2:2, Paul writes, “So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.”
- HUMILITY- This is the reason Paul places that beautiful hymn of Christ’s humility in the centre of this letter to the Philippians. In chapter 2:5 he says, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus…” Said simply, you have to have the attitude of Christ to press the gospel forward.
- SACRIFICE- Do we think that we can press the gospel into the heart of our country without a great sacrifice? For us to get the gospel cost our Saviour His life, and it cost a train of martyrs. In Philippians 1:29, Paul says, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.” Paul knows true fellowship will always involve sacrifice and suffering, but he also knows that nothing will give greater joy than to embark on this mission with others. In Philippians 1:4 he says that he is, “making my prayer with joy because of your partnership in the gospel…” True Christian fellowship is deep! It means centering our lives and our relationships on Christ and the gospel, and on encouraging one another into spiritual maturity as we seek to grow and serve God.
APPLICATION: How about you? Are you content with a purposeless, missionless life? If not, take note that a fellowship of the gospel is the call to joy unequalled by any other fellowship!
FELLOWSHIP IS ABOUT A PARTNERSHIP THAT HAS BEEN FORMED IN ORDER TO ACCOMPLISH SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT.
Dr. John Neufeld
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