5 Components of Discipleship: Fellowship

A second component of discipleship as seen in Acts 2 is, fellowship. Often times we mistaken fellowship with having fun with one another or sharing a meal together. These activities may include fellowship, but they are not fellowship in and of themselves. In order to be a disciple making church, there must be true Biblical fellowship. The Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible describes fellowship as “the essence of the Christian life—fellowship with God and fellowship with other believers in Christ.”[1] The word ‘fellowship’ comes from the Greek word ‘koinineo’ which means, ‘partnership’ or, more literally, ‘participation.’ When one comes to faith in Christ, he or she enters into a ‘partnership’ with Jesus. When applying to the church, we to ‘partner’ with one another or ‘participate’ with one another. Notice what Acts 2:42 says, “And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.”[2]The early church was devoted to ‘fellowship.’ They were ‘partners’ and they ‘participated’ with one another. What exactly then are we supposed to ‘partner’ in? How does fellowship take place in the local church?

First of all, there is the fellowship of the Gospel. Notice what Philippians 1:3-7 says. “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ; just as it is right for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart, inasmuch as both in my chains and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel, you all are partakers with me of grace.”[3] The apostle Paul was thankful for the ‘fellowship in the Gospel.’ He had a ‘partnership’ with the church both in the acceptance and study of the Gospel and in the proclamation of the Gospel. In verse seven, he mentions that they are ‘partakers’ with him. As believers in Christ, we share in what the Gospel has done for us. We share in the grace of God. Therefore, we are to partner with one another in learning and growing in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. As believers, we never graduate from the Gospel; instead, we go deeper into the Gospel. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are also to partner with other believers in the proclamation of the Gospel. We are to be devoted to the cause of bringing the good news of Jesus Christ to the world. As a local church, we are to work together for the cause of Christ. We are to participate together in the sharing of the Gospel with our local community and around the world. You cannot be a disciple making church unless the Gospel is sounding forth from the church. We should also partner with other local churches, missionaries, and ministries for the sake of bringing the Gospel to the world. We should constantly be looking at ways in which we can partner with other believers in the work of spreading the message of the Gospel.

Secondly, we have the fellowship of sanctification. Once we have accepted the gift of salvation by faith, we then enter into a time of sanctification. This is the process of our salvation. Each and every day we are to grow in our relationship with Jesus Christ. Our goal is to be more like Him every day. This fellowship of sanctification is described in Philippians 2:1-13. “Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure.”[4]As disciples of Jesus, we are to be of ‘one mind’. We are to be united. We are to follow the example of Jesus and humble ourselves and consider the needs of others. We are to help one another in having the mind of Christ. It is because of the unity that we have in knowing Christ, that we are to work together to ‘work out our salvation.’ This does not mean that we work for our salvation, rather, that we ‘work it out’ or exercise our faith. In other words, we are to partner with one another in the ‘working out’ or in the ‘development’ of our faith. We are to help each other to grow in our relationship with Christ. How can we make this happen in the life of the local church? We organize and structure the church in such a way that believers can help each other to grow in their walk with God. There are many avenues through which this fellowship of sanctification can take place. One avenue is through the Sunday School ministry. The Sunday School classes should be designed in such a way that it encourages and promotes spiritual growth. They should be designed in such a way that it encourages one another in their walk with God. Another avenue is through various small groups such as home Bible studies, youth ministries, children ministries, men’s groups, and women’s groups, etc. True authentic spiritual growth does not occur on our own. We cannot grow to be more like Christ by ourselves. We need each other. We need to partner with one another in our spiritual growth. Being a part of a small group can help you connect with other believers as you share in this journey of becoming more like Christ. There are many other ways in which we can help each other grow in the faith. The bottom line is that we cannot grow on our own. We must partner together for our spiritual growth.

A third way in which we partner together is in the fellowship of suffering. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to share in each other’s sufferings. The Dictionary of Bible Themes says this about fellowship: “Believers have fellowship with one another on the basis of their common fellowship with God, their participation in the blessings of the gospel and their common task of mission. True fellowship is demonstrated in concern for, and practical commitment to, one another.”[5] Are we truly committed to one another? Do we really care for each other? Notice what 1 Corinthians 12:26 says, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”[6]Using the analogy of the human body, when one part of the body is hurting, it affects the entire body. For example, when you have a headache, it affects how the rest of your body functions. The entire body shares in the suffering. The same is true for the body of Christ. When one member of the body is suffering, we all suffer. We share in each other’s suffering. As a local church, we should hurt when others hurt. As a parent, it pains me to see my children hurting. When I see them struggling, whether it be physically or emotionally, it pains me. I feel for them. As a result, I do everything I can to help them and to encourage them. As a local body of believers, we should feel each other’s pain. Galatians 6:2 says, “Bear one another’s burdens.” We are to hold each other up. When a brother and sister in Christ is suffering, we are to come along side of them and bear the burden with them. The church should be organized and structured in such a way that we are able to support and encourage one another as we suffer through this life.

Also, notice the fellowship of joy. When I was just a young child, my dad was the pastor of a church that had as its slogan, ‘the fellowship of joy.’ The scripture tells us that not only are we to share in each other’s sufferings, but we are also to share in each other’s joy. Partnering together as disciples of Jesus Christ should be a joyous thing. As believer’s we share in the common joy that we have in a relationship with Jesus. The local church should also be a genuine joyous place. When we gather together, we should enjoy each other’s company. It should bring great joy to our hearts to be able to partner with other believers.

Finally, there is the fellowship of love. It does not matter what we do as a church, if we do not love one another, everything we do is in vain. Loving one another is proof of genuine faith. Notice what 1 John 3:14 says, “We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death.” [7]The greatest evidence of authentic faith is love for brothers and sisters in Christ. This love for one another is developed out of our common love for Jesus Christ. The more we love Jesus, the more we will love each other. Ask yourself, ‘do I really love my brothers and sisters in Christ?’ Do I really love the people that I go to church with?

As we examine the early church in the book of Acts, we find that had a strong fellowship because they were together. Hebrews 10:25 says, “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.”[8]Church, how can we have fellowship if we are not together? The closer we are to the return of Christ, the more we should gather together. The early church went to the temple to worship everyday in addition to meeting at each other’s house. When you and I came to faith in Christ, we were adopted into the family of God. We then partnered with a local church where we attend to worship and grow. That local church is now our immediate family. There was a day when all of the families activities was centered around the church. Gathering together at church was a top priority. I long to see that day again. You may say, well, I need to spend time with my earthly family. What better place to spend time with your earthly family than at the house of God? If we are going to have true Biblical fellowship, we must be together.

 


[1] Elwell, W. A., & Beitzel, B. J. (1988). In Baker encyclopedia of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). (Ac 2:42). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3] The New King James Version. (1982). (Php 1:3–7). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[4] The New King James Version. (1982). (Php 2:1–13). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[5] Manser, M. H. (2009). Dictionary of Bible Themes: The Accessible and Comprehensive Tool for Topical Studies. London: Martin Manser.

[6] The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Co 12:26). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[7] The New King James Version. (1982). (1 Jn 3:14). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

[8] The New King James Version. (1982). (Heb 10:25). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

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