Arthur at “the voice of one crying out in suburbia” has written two excellent posts concerning the topic of fellowship.
In the first post, called “Now that sounds like Biblical fellowship“, he describes a church meeting that he heard about from a believers from Hong Kong:
Believers gathered in their home starting at around 8:00 AM and then spent the rest of the day in fellowship, having meals, meeting one on one, listening to preaching, Bible studies, spending time with one another. He said the last person would leave at around 8:30 PM.
Arthur responds with this:
Why do we think we are so sophisticated in America that we have moved beyond this sort of fellowship? It is fine for those people over there but we can get the same thing in our expensive buildings and scheduled programs, we don’t want anything unscripted. Have we moved beyond Biblical fellowship and found something better?
Good question, Arthur. I think we’ve definitely moved beyond biblical fellowship, but I wouldn’t call it “something better”.
And, I think Arthur would agree. Why? Because in his next post, called “Membership or fellowship: Which is the greater need today?“, he suggests that “membership” has replaced fellowship in importance in the church today. Of course, he also notes that other things – such as corporate prayer – have also been replaced. I think Arthur says it best in his conclusion:
Can we assume that church gatherings have fellowship and prayer? Does meeting in the same room and listening to someone else pray on your behalf count as Biblical fellowship and prayer? A once a month sparsely attended potluck dinner is a poor substitute to devoting ourselves to fellowship and the breaking of bread. More to the point, can we have a “healthy” church where fellowship and prayer is given only passing thought? My point is not a criticism of 9 Marks but just to point out how easy it is to make assumptions that are unwarranted by reality and focus on areas that are at best peripheral issues and at worst are merely human traditions.
We have got to get this right in the church. All the Reformation in the world will not change the church if we fail to get past the traditions and labels we have erected. May I suggest we focus on fixing the fundamentals before we start tinkering with traditions?
Good suggestion, Arthur. One note of warning… if you focus on the fundamentals, you will be labeled a “minimalist”. But, don’t worry about that label; just keep focusing on the fundamentals.