Are we in fellowship at our assemblies or only members? Before we answer, let us examine what Biblical fellowship is.
Fellowship is neither friendship nor family. It is a crossbreed of both. It resembles friendship because we share the most intimate thing in common: we love the Lord Jesus Christ. It is like family because we have been born into this fellowship by virtue of the second birth.
Fellowship is friendship
C.S. Lewis boiled down the essence of friendship into three words: “What, you too?” By this he meant that we forge an immediate kinship with another when we discover they have the same likes or interests as us. A person who loves the artwork of Van Gogh, as we do, has our instant attention and respect.
Those who enjoy the thrill of fishing, as we do, strike a deep chord with our souls. The person who loves model trains, or photography, or old cars, or whatever, connects with us in an instant. We naturally feel a bond with them for they evaluate or appreciate life in the same way we do.
Knowing Him is the foundation
If your soul has been awakened to His beauty, if your heart has been touched to see His infinite value, if you are willing to do anything for Him, then you are automatically a friend of mine – regardless of your age, country, origin or walk of life. We both have seen and value the beauty of our Lord Jesus Christ. We both agree the most thrilling part of our existence is knowing Him.
Time and effort
But the bond of friendship is not the same as its development. As with any friendship, fellowship needs time, investment, and the soil of shared experiences in order to grow. That is why we need to meet often and not “forsake the assembling of ourselves together” (Hebrews 10:25).
Although we may feel an immediate kinship with those who know the Lord, it still takes time and experience to enrich our knowledge of each other. A home Bible study, a shared meal, or a weekend retreat is sometimes just what it takes to fan the flame of common interest into the intimate friendship of a lifetime.
A personal example
For example, I have had two really good friends in my life: one was the best man at my wedding, and the other I met long after my wedding. My best man, a friend from high school, I am ashamed to say, I have not seen in years. We have forsaken assembling ourselves together, and as a result have grown apart.
The other friend, who I met after my wedding, calls me every few weeks and comes to visit me every few months. As a result, our friendship has remained intact, and even grown.
Jesus on friendship
The Lord Jesus spoke of friendship three times in John chapter 15. He said, “Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends,” “You are My friends if you do whatever I command you,” and “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:13-15, italics mine).
From Him we learn that friendship involves sacrifice (v.13) loyalty (v.14) and intimacy (v.14). A person will sacrifice his time, his wealth, even his health for his friend.
I personally know a man who gave his kidney to another man in my assembly. I know many more who have given their labor or time to help others to grieve, heal, cope or transition to a new home. The best of friends may even give his life for another – as our Lord Jesus did.
A true friend is loyal and willing to do, as Jesus said, “whatsoever I command you.” I have commanded, i.e. strongly requested, that my friends Greg and Steph take care of my kids should my wife and I die. This is not a request I have thought of lightly.
I chose them because I know they are my true friends and they will do whatsoever I “command.” They will honor and fulfill the intentions I have for my children. Let us seek to be loyal friends to one another in the fellowship.
Friendships are intimate
Lastly, friendship-based relationships are intimate. Servant relationships are not, as Jesus said (John 15:15). Therefore, let us try to be open and honest with one another. We need to let down our guard and be vulnerable with one another, sharing our struggles, weaknesses and griefs with one another so that we may more deeply connect.
Surface talk leads to surface relationships. True friends reveal their inner life to one another.
True biblical fellowship
If we do not devote ourselves to fellowship, if we are satisfied with being “members” only, we will never experience true biblical fellowship or the joys and strengths found within it. Like anything worth doing, fellowship takes time and effort in order to develop.
Make that phone call, visit that sick person in the hospital, talk to that elderly person, share your life with the assembly and discover the intimate life of fellowship God has for you.