Lesson 13: Fellowship with Other Believers
Objective: Recognize the need to spend time with fellow Christians to strengthen the body of Christ (aka. The Church) and to receive the blessing of Christian fellowship and love.
In western culture, the “church” has become known primarily as a building. In reality, the “church” is a relationship, a bond, a brother and sisterhood of fellow believers worshiping God together. Read Romans 16:5, “Greet also the church that meets at their house….” Notice, the “church” meets at a house. A church isn’t a building, it’s a body of believers.
The New Testament is made up of letters written with inspiration from the Holy Spirit TO churches (fellowships of believers in particular cities), such as Ephesus (Ephesians), Galatia (Galatians), etc. The letters weren’t sent to a building, but to a body of believers; ie. The Church (which you and I are now a part of).
A question often initiated by someone who has been emotionally scarred by a local church is “Do I have to go to church to be a Christian?” Or instead of a question, it might be phrased like a statement of fact, “I don’t have to go to church to be a Christian. I can worship God wherever, whenever, and however I want.”
In answer to the question, with “church” properly defined as the body of believers (not merely a building), the answer is yes. Being a Christian does indeed include the practice of gathering together with other believers in worship, hearing God’s word, and studying scripture together.
I don’t believe one must literally visit a building or “house of worship” in order to be a Christian. However, regular fellowship with other believers, where the scriptures are taught and studied, and where bonds of friendship and mutual service are fostered, is instrumental in the life of a Christian.
This is often done within a traditional church building. However, it can also be done in one another’s homes, which was the original church model. If you meet frequently with other Christians in one another’s homes studying God’s word and worshiping together, you ARE in fact a church. Many people meet as a “small group” which is in essence a church within a church.
However, if you rarely or never meet with other Christians in a church building or one another’s homes for study and worship, then you are cutting yourself off from the church (which is Christ’s body).
Christians who try this approach of practicing their faith in isolation or on their own terms are often called “Lone Ranger” Christians. If you fall into this camp, I want to shift your mindset about “going to church”. Think not about what you are going to get. Instead, think about how you have been gifted to give and serve. Don’t rob your fellow Christians of what you have to offer by staying home or attempting to worship by yourself.
Read Romans 12:3-8. Then, re-read Romans 12:5, “So in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.”
When you only worship by yourself, there is a hole in the body of Christ. And that hole can only be filled by you. A church (body of believers) cannot exist with its members living in isolation.
Let’s look deeper into what God’s word suggests about the practice of meeting together:
Hebrews 10:24-25, “And let us consider how to stir up 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 drawing near.”
Acts 2:42-47, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, …”
Proverbs 27:17, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
1 John 1:3, “That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.”
1 Corinthians 12:12, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.”
Philippians 2:4, “Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too.”
Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, “Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil. For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up! Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone? And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him-a threefold cord is not quickly broken.”
Matthew 18:20, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”
Ephesians 1:22-23, “And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.”
Ephesians 5:29-30, “After all, no one ever hated his own body, but he feeds and cares for it, just as Christ does the church-for we are members of his body.”
1: So, what is your current practice as it relates to attending church (including yourself in a body of believers in fellowship)?
2: Given the examples set forth in the Bible, how might your relationships and fellowship with other Christians evolve as a result of this lesson?
3: If you currently don’t regularly attend church, what commitment would you be willing to make?
4: How can you BE a church with your circle of Christian friends?