The Fellowship of Believers
It’s part of who we are. Important enough that it’s in our name – the Bible Fellowship Church. We are called by God to live in community with other believers (Heb. 10:24-25).
We’re not to live our lives independent of the church; instead, we’re to join together with our brothers and sisters to love (John 13:34-35) and serve each other (1Peter 4:10), just as Christ did for us.
As I write this, I’m sitting on my porch at Summer Conference at Pinebrook Bible Conference. All around me, I see fellowship. Second only to the teaching, it’s my favorite part of being here. The first time I came, I was a relatively new Christian. I hardly knew anyone – just the two or three families from my church (Kutztown BFC) that had been coming for years.
One of the things that struck me the most was what happened outside of the scheduled meetings and activities. Unlike any other vacation I’d ever been on, many of the people were sitting around and talking with other families – and not the generic “Hey, how are you?” kind of chatting, but long conversations, often lasting for hours! It seemed like everyone knew everyone, and it wasn’t simply surface-level acquaintances but intimate friendships.
I’ve enjoyed getting to know my brothers and sisters in Christ who gather from all over the Northeast in the years since then, and I look forward to seeing them again each year to get to know them on an even deeper and more personal level. The fellowship feels like a small foretaste of what Heaven will be like.
As great as Pinebrook is though, it’s at home – in the local church – where we can really share our lives together. We don’t only see each other one week a year, but week in and week out. The question is, do we really take the time to get to know each other? Do you invite others over for meals? Do you stick around after the service to enjoy a time of fellowship? Or are you too busy with everything else that church is just something for you to check off the list and then move on to the next thing? If you do that, you’re missing out on one of the sweetest experiences God has given us.
Let’s examine what this fellowship looks like. Koinonia (Koinonia) is the Greek word for it. Some of the ways it’s translated are “fellowship,” “community,” “association,” “joint participation,” and “communion.” It’s a close, affectionate, benevolent union of believers that involves sharing in one another’s joys and sorrows, blessings and burdens, abundances and needs. It’s the opposite of selfishness; it’s the giving up of yourself for the benefit of others.
How do we live out this call? One way is by obeying the “one another” commands in the Bible. Many of them fall into three categories: unity, humility, and service.
In order to be united, we have to be involved in each other’s lives. If the only time we see one another is Sunday mornings, we’re not going to be close enough to have either unity or discord. We’ll be like two ships passing in the night, knowing very little about the other. Instead, we must “love one another” (John 13:34-35). And this isn’t just what we typically think of when we hear the word “love” – it’s a call to imitate Christ’s love for us. That’s a love that is not dependent on how someone makes you feel or what they do for you. It’s sacrificial. It seeks their good (1Thess. 5:15). It’s forgiving (Eph. 4:32). It strives for peace (Mark 9:50). It’s anything but selfish.
There are also things we should not do if we are going to live in unity. Paul tells us, “Let us not pass judgment on one another…, but rather decide never to put a stumbling block or hinderance in [their] way” (Rom. 14:13). Now, don’t take this to mean that we should ignore a brother’s unrepentant sin and never pursue discipline as Christ instituted in Matthew 18.
Rather, we are to be bearing with one another in love (Eph. 4:2). Picking a person apart for every sin you see in them will most certainly put distance between you, not unity, and may very well make you like the hypocrite that Jesus condemns for wanting to remove the speck from your brother’s eye when there’s a log in your own (Matt. 7:1-5).
What can we do to avoid becoming this kind of hypocrite? Start by following the charge of James: Confess yours sins to one another (Jas 5:16a). I think this is often neglected among Christians today. Consider how hard it would be to pass judgment on someone else when you’re busy exposing your own sinfulness. In a similar manner, if we’re remembering how sinful we are by confessing our sins, we’re more likely to not speak evil against one another (Jas 4:11). Next, when a brother sins against you, remember that Christ has already paid the price of that sin. So instead of being angry or distant, surrender the pain to Christ, comforted in knowing that at the end of time, He will make all things right.
Quite possibly the most impactful and necessary approach to unity is to pray for one another (Jas 5:16b). Doing so will help you to love them more rather than act in a way that doesn’t serve their best interest.
“Quite possibly the most impactful and necessary approach to unity is to pray for one another. Doing so
will help you to love them more …”
It will also draw you further into unity, since it’s difficult to know how or what to pray for someone if we don’t really know them and what’s happening in their life. And without doubt, every one of us needs all the prayer we can get in fighting our own indwelling sin, the world, and the devil.
While different, humility feeds into our unity. If we are proud and boastful, it’s going to create conflict and dissonance. Rather than submitting to one another (Eph 5:21), we’ll be trying to one-up each other, prove that we’re better or our view is superior. No, we’re supposed to do precisely the opposite: Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility, count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others (Phil 2:3-4).
Instead of one-upping each other, we outdo one another in showing honor (Rom. 12:10). We also need to keep watch for envy amongst ourselves. Let us not become conceited…, envying one another (Gal 5:26). Rejoice in the giftings and blessings God has bestowed on your brothers (Rom 12:15). He has provided each of us with exactly what we need to do our part in His Kingdom and bring Him the most glory. Desiring anything else rejects God’s plan as not perfect and fully good.
At Kutztown BFC, we encourage all our members to participate in service through “everyone serving, everyone being served.” Christ is our supreme example in this. He came not to be served but to serve (Mk 10:45). His service reached its climax when He bore our sin on the cross. As John says, Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (Jn 15:13). Is the service we render to our brothers and sisters in any way sacrificial? Or does it only happen when it’s convenient for us? Are we willing to give things up for the benefit or aid of others?
One of the ways we’re called to serve others is to bear their burdens (Gal 6:2). When someone else is struggling or weighed down, we are to come alongside them and offer whatever help we can. Maybe there’s a single person or widow in your church who’s feeling lonely; invite him or her to dinner or a family outing. Or perhaps you’re a mechanic and someone who doesn’t have much money is having car trouble; offer free labor for the repair. Look around and I’m sure you’ll find someone you can serve. Remember Christ’s words: as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me (Matt 25:40). We’re serving our Lord by serving our brothers and sisters. God has given each one of us gifts – we are responsible for using them for His glory.
Next, we should encourage one other and build one another up (1Th 5:11). If you see someone faithfully serving the Lord or others in your church, take a minute to thank them or send them a note of appreciation. Be there for someone who recently lost a loved one. That gift you see in a new believer or even a mature one – point it out. Then take it one step further by helping them find ways of using that gift to serve the Lord, as we are to stir one another up to love and good works” (Heb 10:24, emphasis mine). And there’s the goal behind encouragement: helping others so they may, in turn, better love and serve both God and neighbor.
Sometimes building up can be to exhort one another every day (Heb 3:13). Someone who is depressed may need to be reminded of the promises of God. Another person may be unwilling to forgive a brother; point out how much God has already forgiven them. Surely, we can never hear the gospel too many times!
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have been living in perfect fellowship with each other from all eternity. God has given us the privilege of experiencing that fellowship here on earth. I admit it’s not perfect yet, but it is a glimpse of what is to come – what our gracious Father has promised. Doesn’t that fill your heart with delight and gratitude? Let’s put that wonderful fellowship on display for the unbelieving world to see. Then pray that God would work in their hearts and give them a longing to enter into that fellowship with us.
Matt Printz is a member of Kutztown BFC and serves on the BFC Communications Committee by