The importance of fellowship to the church can be seen first in the fact that fellowship occurred naturally as a result of the establishment of the church. Nobody had to come to the disciples and other new believers on the day of Pentecost and say, “You need to practice fellowship.
” The Holy Spirit had come upon these people and formed an inner unity and their natural inclination was to exercise it outwardly. Acts 2:44-47 says this.
And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. 46 And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, 47 praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
This working together to accomplish God’s will continued in the church with the practice of a multiplicity of leadership, diversification of activities, giving to the needy, exercise of different spiritual gifts, support of missionaries, calls to different mission fields, corporate prayer, group worship, and in other ways.
But the importance of fellowship to the church does not rest solely upon the fact that it was the natural result of the coming of the Holy Spirit. Rather, its primary importance stems from the fact that:
Fellowship is the indispensable means of accomplishing the God-given purpose of the church.
To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, 9 and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God, who created all things; 10 in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, …
We see in this passage that God has an eternal plan. The church has a part in accomplishing that plan. The phrase “through the church” in vs. 10 shows that the church is to be God’s instrument in accomplishing His plan. The purpose of the church as stated in vs. 10 is to show to the world the manifold or in Greek, the many-faceted wisdom of God. So then, the purpose of the church is to hold God up to the world and display every glorious aspect of His being for all to see.
What is important to see here is that no individual working alone could ever fulfill this plan of showing every perfection of God for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. So you see, the very nature of God’s plan necessitates the Godly capacities of many individuals added together to show His perfections to the world. You might say that God’s plan must be compared not to a solo but to a symphony. Its beauty is impossible to capture in one note no matter how loud. Only by a full orchestra playing together can the beautiful harmony be fully captured. And this is what the Church is, God’s orchestra! In order to fully manifest God, each person must not only play his part but must play it together. So in God’s symphony—His plan, the score is the Bible which reveals His Son, Jesus Christ. The instruments are our spiritual gifts and natural abilities. And the indispensable means we use to perform is fellowship, our co-participation in accomplishing His purpose. It is only as we work together in this way that it is possible to accomplish God’s plan. This is why fellowship is indispensable to the church.
Of course, some people try to do it all themselves. The movie, “Beau Gueste” is an example of the way some churches function. In the movie, the Arabs are attacking a foreign legion outpost. There are only four legionnaires left alive in the post. But they want the enemy to think they have lots of strength so they propped up the dead bodies of their comrades in the turrets and the four men ran around the walls shooting the dead men’s guns for them. This is the plan of many churches today. They hire a large staff of clergy to prop up the spiritually dead and fire their guns for them. But this will never accomplish God’s plan.
There is another group of people who are church-hoppers and non-participants. They think the church can make it without them. However, 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that everysingle member of the body is necessary for its proper functioning. Because of the importance of fellowship, no one has the right to amputate themselves from the functioning body of Christ, the local church.
So, then, we see that the practice of fellowship, the outward exercise of our inner unity in doing God’s will, is not only natural but indispensable in accomplishing God’s purpose for the church. How, then, can we practice fellowship?