Every Christian is responsible for their personal spiritual growth. Developing godly friendships plays an important role in that growth. That’s where fellowship comes in.
Fellowship is another word that’s been overused in our world. Saying hello to someone at the grocery store does not constitute fellowship. Chatting with your Christian friends about the most recent Giants baseball win: not fellowship.
Now that I’ve told you what fellowship is NOT, let’s take a look at what constitutes fellowship and why it is an essential ingredient for maturing in our Christian walk.
What is Fellowship?
As much as I rely on Merriam-Webster for definitions, I feel he falls short with fellowship. He says fellowship is “companionship, company” especially among a community which shares an interest, activity, feeling or experience.
A close look at the Greek word translated “fellowship” in Acts 2:42 and most other New Testament locations offers a deeper meaning. For example, the same word can also be translated communication, communion, and contribution.
Here we see fellowship is more than just “hanging out” with people. The root word is actually “partnership,” which implies a certain amount of participation from two or more parties.
Biblical fellowship that promotes spiritual growth involves spending time with other believers – and becoming involved in their world. Not as a busybody but as a concerned coworker.
Believers who have a healthy network of fellowship won’t lack for someone to share their burdens. They feel comfortable “getting things off their chest” with these partners in Christ’s work. There is deep trust and shared commitment.
Some fellowship might occur while we’re watching a game together, but only if we open our hearts through communicating deep things.
An example of growth
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
Anyone who’s read the book of Acts will admit the church at Jerusalem knew something about growing. They went from 120 members to 3,120 in one day. A few days later, they added another 5,000 members.
The key to their success is in Acts 2:42. This wasn’t your average “meet on Sunday” church. They were together daily according to Acts 2:46.
What I noticed about this verse a few months ago is that the placement of commas is precise. It’s a clear list of items which contributed to the church’s success.
I’ve always been taught there were four distinct items, but there are only three commas. Since I believe even the commas are inspired (okay, probably not literally since most languages don’t even have such a punctuation mark), let’s take a minute to dissect this.
The first thing the believers did was “they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship.” Using the rules of English, we could restate this for clarity: “they continued without fail in the teaching of the apostles and the fellowship (communion, companionship, partnership) of the apostles.”
What do we learn about a fellowship that leads to growth from looking at verse in this way?
We place emphasis on the importance of holding fast to the “faith which was once delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The teachings of the apostles are cornerstones for true believers.
What about the fellowship of the apostles? According to this verse, that sort of companionship meant something to the early followers of Christ.
Acts 1:21 is Peter’s description of their fellowship: “these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John. . . to be a witness with us of his resurrection.”
These men traveled together all over Palestine for three years. They spent days on end together, listening to Jesus and discussing his teachings. It was an investment of time, energy, focus, and loyalty.
This is the sort of fellowship we must have if we are going to grow spiritually.
What that means for you
We can continue in the fellowship of the apostles even today. No, those men have entered into their Heavenly reward, but the principles of serving together by investing in a common cause remains.
To grow through fellowship:
- Find a group of like-minded believers
- Join this group (likely called a church)
- Invest your time, energy and passion into the people you meet within this group
- Exhort them to love and good works
- Accept their encouragement of the same
If a baby never grew, we’d do all we could to find out what the problem was. If you’re imbibing the milk of God’s Word and chewing on its meat, but you’re still not becoming spiritual mature, it’s time to take it to the next level.
Fellowship is God’s prescription for the final growth spurt. From the beginning, God realized it wasn’t good for men to be alone. You need the companionship of other believers to grow.
**Next week begins a short series of posts on Biblical mothers. On May 26, we’ll return to the topic of spiritual growth.