the weblog of Alan Knox

Intimate fellowship with strangers?

Posted by on May 21, 2009 in blog links, community, fellowship | 9 comments

I love reading posts that I’d wish that I’d written. Arthur at “the voice of one crying out in suburbia” has written one of those called “Incomplete Christians“. Arthur was listening to a famous speaker, author, etc. talk about the “local church”. Arthur agreed with this man’s focus on a local gathering of believers and replied like this:

The local church assembly is vital and eminently Biblical. Those who feel they can just stay home by themselves and be just fine are ignorant of their own need for community and the Bible’s teaching on the fellowship of the saints. So much of the New Testament is written in the context of the local assembly that it is hard to imagine a scenario where Christians gathering together frequently and purposefully is absent.

But, Arthur also started thinking practically about what this man was saying. Why? Because this man normally speaks to an auditorium filled with thousands of people. Is this the kind of local, intimate fellowship that we see in Scripture? Arthur continues:

My concern is that we have so imprinted on our minds what “church” looks like that we can read things like Acts 2:42 and talk about intimate, one-another fellowship and think that we see that in an auditorium of thousands of people… When we look into the New Testament and see where the local assembly is spoken of, what we see is fellowship, intimacy, familial relationships. While folks in huge assemblies… are getting great teaching, teaching I would love to hear every week, are they getting fellowship as well?… Great teaching yes, great fellowship no. At least not the kind of fellowship we see in the local assembly in the New Testament.

I agree with Arthur about the absence of fellowship. Of course, fellowship can be absent from a small group of believers as well, but at least fellowship is possible among a small group. In reality, when we meet with the church, we’re usually together with a bunch of strangers. It is impossible share intimate fellowship with strangers.

I would simply add this question: Is teaching (week in and week out) without an intimate relationship between the teacher and others really “great teaching” from a biblical perspective?

(By the way, if you want to know which “great teacher” Arthur was listening to and talking about, then read his post. I decided to keep the names out of my post in order to keep the post general.)


9 Comments

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  1. 5-21-2009

    Alan/Arthur,

    Great post(s)!

    One thing we have to keep in mind is that “Church” doesn’t just happen on Sunday morning from 9 a.m. – 11 a.m. — I think this is an exmple of one of the “imprints on our minds of what Church looks like” that we need to erase. I’m not arguing against having set times to meet. Simply noting that it seems past due for Christians to re-examine “what” the Church really is.

    Thanks for your labor in this area.

  2. 5-21-2009

    That type of teaching may be good from a Western perspective and may be even better for Physics, Geometry, Literature…. However I have come to know that teaching apart from modeling is not biblcial teaching. Granted the teaching may be “about” the bible, it is not “biblical” teaching. The platform to perform has to be twice as big as the platform to proclaim, if not then the “education” that is provided is no different from the average University.

  3. 5-21-2009

    Alan

    I would flip your question around and ask if we can have great/Biblical fellowship without solid teaching? Just like I can get great teaching without much fellowship at conferences, you can get great fellowship without teaching. But is it healthy to have one without the other consistently? That is where I am having a hard time, I have found some good fellowship but teaching is lacking.

  4. 5-21-2009

    Wade,

    Yes, you’re exactly right. One of my favorite quotes about the church is, “If there’s not life outside the meeting, then there’s no life in the meeting.”

    Lionel,

    I think you’re making the distinction between “discipling” and “teaching”. I agree. Teaching from a biblical perspective is part of discipleship, which must be relational.

    Arthur,

    I agree. We can’t have teaching without fellowship or fellowship without teaching – from a biblical perspective. I would add that we have to be careful what we call “solid teaching”.

    So, I’ll ask, what do you require before you’d call it “solid teaching” or “good teaching”?

    -Alan

  5. 5-21-2009

    Alan,

    Good quote.

    Lionel,

    I think you point out an important and overlooked part of the problem. “Going to Church” has become like atending a class. We go, assume one posture (sitting), face the lecturer (preacher), receive our information download (sermon), and then go home.

    The result of this is that far too many Christians have been taught (by common methodology) that the Christian life consists mainly of intellectual exercises. This teaches us that being a ‘good Christian’ is measured by how you think, not by how you love.

    How we worship also teaches us. IMO.

  6. 5-21-2009

    Alan,

    These are such important issues. It seems to me that we make a huge mistake separating the concepts of teaching, discipling and fellowship.

  7. 5-21-2009

    Wade,

    I wish I could remember where I first heard that quote.

    You said, “far too many Christians have been taught (by common methodology) that the Christian life consists mainly of intellectual exercises”. Yep. And its to the point that its assumed that if you have an education in “Christian Studies” then you must be spiritually mature.

    Aussie John,

    We love to place things (including our lives) into categories, don’t we? Instead, our lives should be lived wholly such that discipleship, teaching, and fellowship are common place, not separate parts of our lives.

    -Alan

  8. 5-22-2009

    What makes teaching “good” or “solid” teaching? That is an excellent question to ponder. I sense a blog post forthcoming….

  9. 5-22-2009

    Arthur,

    I’m looking forward to it. :)

    -Alan