The Difficulties and Delights of Fellowship

Hebrews 10:24-25 says:

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.

This passage, along with several others in the New Testament, commands disciples of Jesus Christ to actively engage in having fellowship with other disciples. Fellowship is a critical component in the life of a growing disciple and is something that needs to be constantly attended to and nourished.

But fellowship can be a difficult thing, so much so that many Christians minimize their exposure to other Christians. Many come to church on a Sunday, if they do at all, sit in the back and leave as soon as it is over in order to avoid having to talk to anyone. The reasons for this vary. Some have had very bad experiences with other Christians, to the point that they don’t trust getting involved in any church. Some have difficulty in relating to people in general and thus feel they are incapable of developing close relationships with other believers. Most, however, don’t engage in any form of in-depth fellowship because they couldn’t be bothered. They keep at arms-length with other believers, not wanting to be burdened with being involved in other people’s lives, mainly because they have opted for the culture’s radical exaltation of the Self and all the comforts it brings.

Yet, this is not the way of a disciple. Those who follow Christ are called to live in communion with, not only Jesus, but also His Body, the church. This doesn’t mean just showing up on a Sunday morning. It does mean intentionally living lives that help, encourage and build up other disciples. It can be difficult and messy at times but the purpose of fellowship is to build up others in order to glorify Christ.

Yet what does fellowship look like and how are disciples of Jesus to do it? I highlight three aspects of fellowship that disciples need to keep in mind.

Remove the Roadblocks

The first is, identify the roadblocks that are keeping you from spending time with other Christians. Are you the Christian who couldn’t be bothered and is more interested in spending time with yourself or your closed inner circle? Do you have a fear of closeness with other people? Have you been seriously hurt in the past? All these, plus more, are serious roadblocks that prevent disciples from engaging in the lives of other believers.

Once you have those roadblocks identified, you need to get the bulldozer out and start removing them from your life. Serious roadblocks require a bulldozer of the quality of Jesus. Ask Him to remove those barriers and the grace to engage with other Christians freely and sincerely. If you are fearful, ask for courage. If you are tongue tied, ask for wisdom. If you are self-absorbed, ask for humility.

Talk About Jesus

The second aspect is to make sure you talk about Jesus. Fellowship is not about a simple hi, small talk and then good bye on a Sunday morning. Unfortunately, it is very easy to spend much time with other believers and never talk about Jesus. Disciples should be asking: How He has been working in your life, how He is speaking to you in the Scriptures, etc. It is easy to talk about the little things but never mention His name in the course of conversation! But what is the primary reason Christians get together? It is because of Jesus. If Jesus or anything related to Him is not talked about in times spent with other disciples, the quality of fellowship is superficial.

But this implies that each disciple is already walking with Jesus day by day and trying to cultivate their personal relationship with Him. If fellowship with Jesus is poor, than fellowship with other believers will be equally as poor. It shouldn’t be forced but come naturally and that can only happen if one’s relationship with the Lord is sincere, both in good and bad times.

Love One Another

The third aspect is to cultivate a genuine desire to care for the welfare of other disciples in Christ. This is where true fellowship shines and demonstrates to the world that we are really disciples of Jesus Christ, if we love one another (John 13:35). When you talk to other believers, how much time do you spend asking them how they are doing versus how much time you talk about yourself? When a disciple needs to talk about a difficult issue, how willing are you to find the time to talk with him? When they are in need, will you help to meet that need the best you can? If you are not intentional in caring for other disciples, you are not doing real fellowship. We are often afraid to offer help or invite them out for coffee just to chat. Disciples need to over come these roadblocks and make that call, send that e-mail or make that invitation.

This is not easy and entails some risk. It may mean letting ourselves become vulnerable to others and taking the risk of being hurt. But all disciples still have the sin nature and are imperfect this side of heaven, so this should be no surprise. This is one of the costs of discipleship. Yet, it is a call that our Lord is making to His church: to love one another.

Fellowship is not all risk and doom. As disciples strive to practice true fellowship, its rewards and blessings are sweet and encouraging to weary souls. Recall those times when you were down and another disciple helped to pick you up. This is what fellowship is all about and why the church needs more of it.

2017 © Ed LeBlanc

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