The Nature of a True Christian Fellowship
A true Christian fellowship can best be defined as a group of spiritual people gathering together to accomplish a religious purpose. A true Christian fellowship cannot give spirituality or religion, though it should be a place where spirituality and religion is demonstrated and encouraged.
The Apostle Paul described a true Christian fellowship when he wrote:
“And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”
– Hebrews 10:24-25
Christians should gather together for a purpose – to incite one another to demonstrate love and fine works toward others. It is not merely a meeting of like-minded people where they simply discuss the hope they hold in common. It is not merely a lecture or a classroom setting with teacher and pupils. And it certainly is not a place for self-aggrandizing propaganda as a ‘chosen people’ or a ‘chosen denomination,’ nor an occasion to judge the faith of others. Christians are to gather to do something – to further the will of God. This ‘something’ could be any number of things, feeding the hungry, tending to the sick, caring for the needs of the poor, and things like these just as Jesus and the early Christians did. And, most importantly, they preach the good news of liberty and freedom to all mankind – the ministry of reconciliation:
“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”
– 2 Corinthians 5:18-20
Yes, a true Christian fellowship is a meeting of ambassadors of the Kingdom of the Heavens, doing the will of God and carrying out the ministry Jesus carried out, substituting in his place while he is physically absent until his return.
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
– Matthew 28:19-20
But a true fellowship needs to widen out beyond preaching and teaching, and begin serving the needs of the communities in which they exist. Christian churches, temples, synagogues, etc., should be community centers for service of all kinds – anything that uplifts the condition of man.
They can also be schools of instruction of ‘the sayings of Jesus’ (Matthew 7:24-27) and ‘the things Jesus taught’ (Matthew 28:20), but they are not places where the teachings of men are expounded (Galatians 1:6-9), nor where one’s spirituality is defined, judged or constrained.
“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:15
No priest, reverend, elder or leader of any kind is the master over another’s faith, nor are they authorized to interject themselves into the personal decisions of others. Those who take a leadership position in a true Christian fellowship are only administrators organizing a ministry. They can provide personal counsel when asked.
“Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.”
– James 5:14
And they can attempt to readjust others when their conduct interferes with the fellowship’s purpose of carrying out the ministry:
“But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolater or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people. What business is it of mine to judge those outside the church? Are you not to judge those inside? God will judge those outside. Expel the wicked person from among you.”
– 1 Corinthians 5:11-13
But such men have no authority over the households of others or over what people do in their personal lives outside of the fellowship arrangement. Those who take the lead are not spiritual police. There is nothing in the Christian writings that authorizes any man to micro-manage the affairs of another. Quite to the contrary:
“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm.”
– 2 Corinthians 1:24
As Paul explained, no leader, other than Christ, died for us, nor were we baptized in the name of any man other than Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:13)
It should also be noted that a true Christian fellowship should not involve itself in politics. While an individual Christian is free to participate in the affairs of their community, their state, or their nation as a natural part of citizenship, religious collectivism when it is directed toward a political purpose is nothing more than a political party. This is what the Christian writings discourage. A true Christian fellowship should steer clear of those types of entanglements, and remain true to their ministerial purpose of ‘inciting one another to love and fine works.’ They are ambassadors of the heavenly kingdom, not spokesmen for a political ideology or for a religious organization.
Finally, a true Christian fellowship should encourage its members to be responsible for their own conduct. When our brothers and sisters know that they are the faith sons of God and accountable directly to the Father and Christ Jesus, they are more inclined to live in truth, for they will know that they cannot hide their errors. They will keep in mind that the Spirit is real and the plain and open teaching of Jesus are powerful.
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
– Hebrews 4:12-13
Those who want to ‘practice’ sin to the detriment of others will not last long in a true Christian fellowship. They will become quickly exposed and will flee from you when they realize they cannot prevail over the sons of God.
If more Christian groups could form or reform themselves into true Christian fellowships, all those associated with it will be revived and strengthened. They will demonstrate to the world who Jesus really is by being living examples of his life and ministry. They will be the lights of the world as Jesus said:
“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”
– Matthew 5:14-16