Tuesday, September 27, 2005

True Fellowship

My father, Fred, left a great comment last night regarding my Update:

"I hope you and Ryan can find a church with 'Life Groups' or small groups that study God's Word and share life together. God meant for us to be in a community as his servants--teaching his word and meeting the needs of others."

My father and mother attend a church that incorporates Life Groups, or cell groups, as a basic building block of its programs. Dad teaches a cell group of 40 people! I am really proud of all the hard work he does. He pores over books and faithfully attends elder meetings several times a week. I've watched him grow tremendously over the past several years, and it's exciting and joyous.

Of course Dad and Mom want us to be regularly attending a church. And I agree with what he says here: I'd love to be a part of a regularly meeting group that studies the Bible and shares life. And I'm not saying we won't be.

I am just not sure it's going to be in the context of 'church' as it's usually thought of in modern America.

And it's that point I'd like to explore a little more here: what is true fellowship?

I think many of us are used to thinking of fellowship in terms of time spent together physically. We eat meals and have get-togethers to "fellowship" in the modern church. While there's nothing wrong with that, and I am not saying it's a misuse of the term, I don't think that fellowship is just about physically being together. It is the sharing of a common belief, a goal, a faith--the sharing of obedient love for Christ--that forges fellowship.

1 John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

How do we have fellowship with one another? By walking in the light. Fellowship is a partnership, a sharing, that has its basis in truth and agreement, not just physical proximity. It's how we fellowship with one another every day over the Internet. I can't hold your hand or hug you, but our fellowship is real, because of our love for Christ and our unity in Him.

I am not writing this so that people will think they don't need to go to church! I am simply suggesting that a traditional church isn't the only place true fellowship can be found--and, in fact, it can be a bit hard to find true fellowship in traditional church. Not impossible, just difficult. There are so many heresies (prosperity, easy believism), so many movements (Purpose-Driven, Emergent), so much extrabiblical, diabolical nonsense (the laughing revival). It's tough to sort through it all.

I am frustrated in writing this, because I know that some will see it as an attack on churches. It's not. I know that God will provide fellowship for us in some form. He has at every turn in our lives. But there have been times that fellowship, for us, has looked different than (modern) tradition would have it. It's looked, at different times, like two people meeting for coffee; two families meeting to talk and pray, with children milling around; a phone call from Africa; a couple feasting on a taped sermon, taking notes and stopping to talk. And, yes, for a whole year we attended an American church with a building! (Insert wink.)

None of those, by themselves, constitute a New Testament-based church with elders and teaching and the full range of gifts. I would love that. I hope God leads us to a fellowship where the elders seek to closely follow Biblical guidelines, where the Bible isn't twisted, and where we are called to serve.

But just because I am not currently a part of a regularly meeting group doesn't mean the Lord isn't doing His will, day by day, in and through me. It doesn't mean I am not serving the Lord and those He's called me to right now.

And, for what it's worth, I doubt we'll be at this place for long (without a regular meeting). God knows what He is doing, and I'll be watching for it.