COMMENTARY | Joe McKeever
When a church of 120 members set out to assimilate 3,000 converts (from a one-day revival!) into the life of their family, they ranked “fellowship” among the top priorities in accomplishing the task.
“Koinonia” is a Greek word which, while almost always translated “fellowship” in our Bible, refers to sharing life, a partnership. My own personal definition is “hanging out.”
The FQ of a church — the fellowship quotient — speaks to how well the members love the Lord and one another and show hospitality to new believers.
Following are 10 aspects and insights about the FQ of your church. They are worth carving in stone, or better, engraving on the hearts of your leadership and membership.
1) Fellowship is the heartbeat of the congregation.
Fifteen minutes after the benediction in a church where I had been the guest preacher, I said to the pastor, “Listen! It’s the sound of fellowship.” His members were greeting one another, hugging, laughing, chatting, and talking. If anyone had left, I couldn’t tell it.
Just as the doctor places a stethoscope up to the chest and listens to the heartbeat, the pulse of the congregation is the sound you hear when church has ended. Pay close attention, friend. This is the life-beat of your people.
2) Fellowship may or may not be what draws people to your church, but it’s why they stay.
Recently, when a minister was forced to resign his position because of some personal habits that would require therapy, his family chose to remain in the church. A friend told me, “They love this church. This is family.”
Prospective members may give you a long list of what they’re looking for in their next church — strong Bible teaching, a great music or missions program, an emphasis on youth or children. While they want these things, nothing is more attractive to them than a congregation with a thriving family life — people loving the Lord, each other, and newcomers. They will join that church and remain there even if few other aspects meet their requirements.
3) Fellowship is made up of three parts: a commitment to Jesus Christ as Lord, a love for fellow believers as friends, and hospitality shown to newcomers.
4) However, the newcomer will notice these three in reverse order: first, hospitality (how they are welcomed), then joy within the family, and finally, that the people are committed to the Lord Jesus.
5) People on the outside are craving this fellowship.
God said of Adam, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). That’s true of you and me, too.
You’ve seen enough nature programs to know that when the lion is looking for lunch, it does not take on the whole herd but heads for the stragglers. The loner that has left the herd — it’s too young to keep up, too old, too sickly, or too headstrong — is targeted for the next meal. “Your adversary, the devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” (I Peter 5:8).
We need each other. God made us this way.
6) A wise church works to build a stronger fellowship among its people.
Fellowship comes in planned and unplanned versions. The planned variety happens in Sunday School classes, committees, Bible studies, work projects, and at church dinners. Unplanned fellowship takes place casually and naturally before and after classes, studies, and worship services. Informal, unplanned fellowship occurs when members play golf together or go out for pizza after church.
7) The greatest enemy of fellowship in God’s people is the human heart.
We are all sinners. We tend to be self-centered, independent loners. Even the hearts of believers can grow cold quickly, turn inward naturally, become narcissistic, and delight in cutting itself off those we love best.
One of the ugliest things you will ever see is a church membership deciding to spend their resources on themselves, to direct all their ministries inwardly, and to turn their attention from the lost of the world to themselves. It’s a slow, subtle process, one for which we must always be alert.
8) A dying church will begin to die here first.
I see it in some of the churches where I’m the guest preacher. The service ends and everyone heads for the parking lot. No one stays to visit, no one greets the newcomer, no one affirms the leadership. The church is dying right before your eyes.
9) Leadership must value fellowship highly and protect it; otherwise it will be supplanted by a thousand lesser things.
An interim pastor once told me, “I don’t attend that monthly men’s breakfast. All they do is meet and eat.” I said, “I used to think that. But then I noticed that these guys pay for the meal, they cook it themselves, and clean up afterwards. But most importantly, this is the one time in the whole month for some of them to share a meal with a brother in Christ. It’s a wonderful ministry.” (What I did not say was the breakfast was the best in town!)
10) God loves it when His people love each other, when they get together for encouragement, when they “hang out.”
Recently, my wife and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary by flying in our children and grandchildren from around the country for a long weekend of activities. At one point, when everyone was on the back patio, I was struck by the sounds of these 15 people. They were laughing, talking, loving, playing, rejoicing in one another. It was music to Grandpa’s ears.
The Father in Heaven loves for His people to get the fellowship thing right.
Joe McKeever is a Baptist Press cartoonist and columnist, a former longtime pastor and former director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association.
– From Baptist Press