Beyond the coffee and doughnuts

What sometimes passes for Christian fellowship is about as nourishing as the doughnut you ate in Sunday School last week. Though enjoyable, it brings little spiritual benefit.

To fellowship is to share. That’s the basic meaning of koinonia—sharing. But it’s a sharing that goes beyond the coffee and doughnuts. We may think that just because we’ve shared food and time with one another that we have fellowshipped. But maybe we haven’t—not in the true biblical sense.

True fellowship is not primarily a social activity but rather a relationship. So instead of thinking of fellowship simply as the act of meeting together, let’s think of fellowship in terms of sharing our lives together in a such a way that facilitates our growth in Christ.

There’s more than one way to share biblical fellowship, but here are 3 essentials:

Speaking God’s Word to one another

“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers.” (Acts 2:42, HCSB)

In True Community, Jerry Bridges explains the practice in the early church: “Those first Christians from the Day of Pentecost were all Jews. They were steeped in the Old Testament Scriptures, but as they listened to the apostles’ teaching and were enlightened by the Holy Spirit, they began to see those Scriptures in a new way. They were daily gaining a new understanding of them. And as they individually learned from the apostles’ teaching, they shared with one another what they were learning. This is fellowship: sharing with one another what God is teaching through the Scriptures, and this is an important part of true community.”

In our present-day practice of fellowship we effortlessly discuss everything else except what God is teaching us from His Word and what He’s doing in our lives. Why do you suppose that is? Why do we find easier and more natural to talk about our favorite football team or latest movie release than about what God is teaching us in His Word?

Encouraging one another

“And let us be concerned about one another in order to promote love and good works, not staying away from our worship meetings, as some habitually do, but encouraging each other, and all the more as you see the day drawing near.” (Hebrews 10:24-25, HCSB)

Christian fellowship involves encouraging one another. But how? The writer of Hebrews is not telling us that we encourage each other simply by attending the church meetings. Mere attendance doesn’t “promote love and good works.” The key word is “promote.” That’s a strong Greek word that means “to provoke, incite, or stir something up.” The word can have a negative meaning, as in Acts 15:39 where it speaks of stirring up disagreements. In Hebrews 10:24 it’s used positively to call us to consider how we can nudge each other forward in service and obedience.

Holding one another accountable

“Let the righteous one strike me — it is an act of faithful love; let him rebuke me — it is oil for my head; let me not refuse it.” (Psalms 141:5, HCSB)

David prayed for godly people to hold him accountable. In fact, he considered a righteous person holding him accountable as an act of love. Do you have someone who holds you accountable spiritually? This should be happening every week in our small groups and Sunday School classes. If we don’t have that kind of accountability to others we’re missing a much-needed aspect of Christian fellowship.

Coffee and doughnuts are fine. I’ll have my coffee black and my doughnut chocolate, thank you. But let’s not miss the deeper meaning of fellowship—sharing our common life in Christ. Fellowship includes sharing what God is teaching us through His Word, nudging one another forward in our walk with Christ, and holding one another accountable spiritually.