Christian Fellowship; Forsake not the Assembling.

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(ThyBlackMan.com) Churches have more ways to connect with people than ever before. When used creatively, the utilization of digital conferencing, social media, and video chatting becomes an excellent means for spreading the gospel. This potentially increases membership numbers within the local church.

Total membership numbers have mistakenly become a metric for measuring success within a church. The focus must be redirected towards fellowship rather than numeric membership. One may ask, what is the difference between fellowship and membership?” “Don’t they both occur on Sunday mornings?” Well, not exactly, this article first addresses the original establishment and the concept of fellowship within the church, followed by explaining the differences between membership and fellowship. These two terms are often interrelated but have far different meanings regarding the church. Lastly, we describe the advantages of establishing small group fellowship within the church to promote compassion, discipleship, education, encouragement, spiritual development and many more benefits, all of which equates to a greater fellowship experience. With all these stated advantages, why would we forsake the assembling of ourselves together?

The Establishment of the Church and the Concept of Fellowship

42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. 43 And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. 44 And all who believed were together and had all things in common. 45 And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. 46 And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.” (Acts 2:42-47)

The establishment of the first church was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, reverence, and four principles: “Teaching”, “Fellowship”, “Breaking of Bread”, and “Prayer”.

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“Teaching described the Apostles accounts of Jesus of Nazareth because they had been in the presence of the Messiah. The teachings included Jesus’ ministry, crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension. “Fellowship” means establishing close relationships with fellow Christians and more importantly developing spiritual intimacy with God. The meaning also included the sharing of goods in support of one another. “Breaking of Bread” described sharing a traditional meal and commemorating Jesus’ death and resurrection. “Prayer” meant communicating with God in homes and the temple.

It is important to know the church is not a building. It is an assembly of believers in Jesus Christ with the purpose of encouraging, worshipping, and teaching about the saving grace of Jesus. In present day, the “church” has come to mean the building where people meet, and the focus has shifted from fellowship to membership.

Fellowship vs. Membership

Let’s examine the differences between fellowship vs membership. The general dictionary meaning for fellowship is companionship; community of interest, activity, feeling or experience. Membership simply means the body of members of an organization. Fellowship is associated with an organism where all are a part of a living thing, whereas membership is associated with a manmade construct.

Acts 2:42-47 provides a template for distinguishing the New Testament church and helps differentiate the meaning of fellowship versus membership. Based upon the modern observation of both terms, we conclude that there is the possibility they may juxtapose one another today.

Every believer devoted themselves to the teachings of the apostles. There was a holy awe that overwhelmed everyone. According to the scripture in Acts 2, everyone was in “fellowship” as one body (organism) and they shared with one another whatever they had. However, by the time post-modern Christianity began to flourish in the United States, the concept of membership morphed into a form of hierarchy.

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A high value on numeric membership has negatively impacted fellowship. It has spawned a dedication to the organization, rather than to God. Membership has created a mentality of self-centeredness, selfishness, privilege, arrogance, and organizational pride. An air of arrogance has contributed to a division between congregants as well as congregations. The desire of Christ to make his disciples one, in the 17th chapter of John, is, subtly, hindered by the cliques that have developed from membership mentality.

 

Finish story here; Christian Fellowship; Forsake not the Assembling.