One of the most serious dangers is for the church to believe that evangelism is the first — and last — step in our mission. We often forget that discipleship and spiritual growth are essential to the health of every Christian.
So, let’s consider this fourth and final spiritual discipline: fellowship. According to the pattern of the New Testament church, discipleship requires community, fellowship and accountability. It’s an intentional process that leads the believer in sanctification — a theological term for ‘becoming more like Christ’.
Paul is unapologetic about the necessity of gathering together in fellowship and community. In his letter to the church at Thessalonica, he instructed them to “encourage one another and build one another up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). The writer of Hebrews exhorted the believer to “stir one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day (of Christ’s return) drawing near" (Hebrews 10:24-25).
The early believers in the Book of Acts would have been shocked to find modern day Christians taking church assembly so lightly. According to recent statistics, a person attends their church 1.3 times per month. That’s a far cry from being committed to fellowship, whether in corporate worship, or in more causal environments like a meal and conversation together in a home. Throughout the Book of Acts, rarely will you see a believer by themselves. We were created by God for community; God never intended the Christian to grow in isolation.
Now that doesn’t mean the early church — or the church today — is without problems. We are, after all, a collection of redeemed sinners. We observe the early church rejoicing with each other in triumphs and mourning with each other during times of trouble. Sometimes they disagreed with one another and caused division in the church family. Still, they remained committed to the apostle’s teaching, prayer, fellowship and the breaking of bread (communion) as they grew together in Christ.
Paul directed the church in his inspired letters to sing praise together (Eph. 5:19); speak truth to each other (Col. 3:9); stir up one another to love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24); confess their faults and pray for one another (James 5:16); bear one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:2); serve one another (Romans 12:5); and more!
The church assembly, and the fellowship of believers, both formally and informally is not optional — it’s essential!
Let’s be clear, what does true community and fellowship look like?
In order to answer that, let me first tell you what it doesn’t look like.
It does not look like the person who comes into the church right as the service starts, sits in the back, and walks out to their car during the closing song. Frankly, I’m troubled by anyone who wants to be an invisible follower of Christ in their own church!
Further, it does not look like someone remaining uninvolved and uninterested in serving other believers. For them, once every other week, at best, is enough “church” for them.
If a man told me he loved his wife and family, but was satisfied with seeing them a couple times a month, never giving them time to play or work around the house, rarely reading the letters they wrote and attending special functions like Thanksgiving and Christmas by popping in at the last moment and then ducking out as soon as the dessert was finished, I would have no reason to believe that he truly loved them.
So, do you really love Christ? How are you involved in His family?
Make a commitment to add this spiritual discipline of community, fellowship and worship as an active member of your Bible believing local church this year — it will become a year of tremendous spiritual growth.
And by the way, you not only need your church family: