How Do We Get Real Fellowship?
Community. Vulnerability. Real-ness. Living life together. As group leaders, we all want these things – even if they’re hard to define.
But here’s the reality:
- Awkward silences
- Groups that don’t gel
- People that don’t talk
- People that come half the time (if that)
If you experience those things as a Small Group Leader, it’s really easy to feel like you’ve failed. Then our motivation to lead with excellence plummets.
But friend, there’s hope for your group. Deep relationships are possible! The problem is that you’ve been lied to about fellowship. The solution to the problem is real fellowship.
Fellowship is not friendship. It’s not a dinner. It’s not watching football together. It’s not hanging out.
Fellowship isn’t Christians being together. It’s Christians working towards a goal together.
Ephesians 4 tells us what that goal is. It says that pastors equip church members…
“…for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.”
Our goal is unity in both right doctrine and delight in Christ–so that the Church represents Christ himself in the world.
In other words,the goal of fellowship is a mixture of worship, obedience, and evangelism. Sound difficult? Fortunately, God tells us specifically how to do this.
Colossians 3:16 says, “Let the word of Christ dwell among you richly.” How do we do that? God says we do this “by teaching and warning one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs with thankfulness in your hearts to God.” There are two elements of fellowship here.
- The first is saying what the Bible says to each other–both about his promises and his commands.
- The second is prayer together.
Rejoice & Weep
We see another element of fellowship in Romans 12:15: “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” In other words, know people well enough to know what’s making them either happy or sad, and join them in that sadness.
We see one more element about fellowship in 1 John 3:17. God says, “if anyone has the world’s good and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?”
We are to meet the legitimate needs of the saints. (In fact, the word translated ”fellowship” in the New Testament can have a distinct meaning of “financial help” for the sake of the gospel’s advance.)
God gives us these elements of real fellowship. If we don’t make these central, our ”fellowship” really becomes a fellowship of small talk, sports, food, movies or hobbies. And the result of that is can become uniformity in tastes or even ethnicity, socioeconomic status, and age.
But when what God says about fellowship is central: brothers and sisters who have no reason to be together–except for the gospel–join hands in common cause for the sake of Christ’s name.
And when we’re working towards a common goal, we will give thanks together, bear each other’s burdens. That is real fellowship.
Further Reading: “4 Tools for Real Fellowship”
Derek served on staff with Cru for ten years and is a member of College Park Church.