Opinions on faith and life

Fellowship

2008-05-03

When a churchgoer encounters an OOC (out of church) Christian, the first thing they usually do is quote Hebrews 10:25 (out of context):

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
At the very least, the preceding verse must be included:
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds,
The two thoughts go together; they make up one sentence. There is a reason to assemble together, and that is to encourage and build each other up. Yet precious little of that actually happens in the typical church service.

We can pretty much recite the routine in our sleep. First is the Sunday School class where we all fill in the blanks of our “quarterlies”, then it’s off to the Sanctuary. We sit in rows all facing the Altar. Then we stand on cue and sing to the backs of people’s heads. Announcements are read, and then people finally get to socialize for exactly one minute with people they’ve never seen before. Then we are entertained (while insisting we’re worshiping) by the choir’s or the Worship Team’s “special music”. Then we settle down with our Bibles and bulletins to either take notes we’ll never read again or just doodle, frequently fighting sleep as the Preacher gives his lecture. Finally, and perilously close to Lunch Time, we stand and sing and then run for the parking lot.

Yeah, that’s what Jesus and Paul had in mind! Lots of “building each other up”.

Let’s be honest. The “fellowship” in the typical church today is nothing like what we see in Acts. I’m not saying we have to live in communes or anything, but that we should truly fellowship. That means sharing our day to day lives. Even in the largest churches, fellowship typically only happens in small groups who socialize through the week.

This is not to say we shouldn’t meet together for teaching or inspiring talks or music; those are all fine. But we shouldn’t call that “fellowship” or claim that it satisfies Heb. 10:25. Can most of those who just go to the main worship service and nothing more point their fingers at us OOC and claim we have given up “meeting together”-- when the point is not the meeting but the building up?

It isn’t enough to be in the same building with other believers. We are to interact, to help each other, to share our spiritual gifts. In fact, it’s pretty much impossible to use spiritual gifts in isolation. And here again, it isn’t enough to get an emotional rush from “tongues”, as if the mere speaking of them is “using our gifts”. The bottom line is building each other up; I can’t stress that enough. A Body is meant to be one unit with many “members” (not as in “church membership” but body parts), not a box of disconnected items.

And please, let’s stop limiting the Body to physical nearness. Did Paul not write letters to distant assemblies, and did he not have true fellowship with them? Is it distance that matters, or communication and attitude? Should I be told I’m not using my gifts over the internet? (Yes, I’ve been told that.) Should anyone judge me by whether I am physically near other believers, or by whether I seek to reach out beyond my comfortable home? I hope that those with such controlling attitudes wake up and repent! I will not put the Holy Spirit in such a small box.

Don’t “do church”, be the Body.

4 Comments

Lin

Oh boy, you are singing my tune. By the way, I have real fellowship other believers online that I have never met. We pray for one another, encourage one another and teach one another.

It really is amazing how far off track we have gotten for 2000 years from the early church structure and worship.

Sandy

Personally, I’ve found the internet to be more of a NT type fellowship. I "meet" with other believers daily, fellowshipping together in the Lord. We may not break actual bread but we discuss the Bread and the Body. We encourage, exhort, teach, pray for, listen, support, and discuss. There are many gifts used online and I am a glad recipient of the use of those gifts by many.

I do attend a local church which I like, but don’t feel as the Body is limited to that. The Body of Christ is much larger, with many more parts and members than that. We spent a few years as out of church Christians and I think it was necessary for me during the time I was being led by God out of fundamentalism.

I’m thankful I live in an era that has internet, email, etc. How wonderful to interact with other believers in the name of Christ and not because of physical proximity, social class, race, nationality, etc.

Truthseeker

This is right on and what I have been trying to explain to some who insist that going to a formal location is what it means to be in fellowship. As a relative newlywed to one in a very fundamentalist church (I found out a little too late what that means in all its aspects), and not wanting to discourage my spouse(thankfully a mild comp and an egal in practice-amazing...the dichotomy...) by going to a separate ’church’, I am currently gaining all my fellowship via the internet (plus a few conversations by phone with distant friends) and don’t know where I would be without it!!! If there is ever a national convention (or even local ones) of all of us ’net churchies’ or OOC’s, I will be there if at all possible!

Paula Fether

Yes, a gathering for those who are accused of not wanting to gather... I like it!