What is "Fellowship?"

by David Smitherman

The early disciples "continued steadfastly in ..fellowship" (Acts 2:42). And, this "constant attention" to fellowship is a practice of our first century brethren what we would do well to imitate. But what is involved in "fellowship," especially fellowship with a local church?

Fellowship is not "placing membership" or having one's name "on the roll." Nor should it be equated with one's bodily presence in an assembly. In spite of these things, there are many brethren who are not in fellowship with the congregation they claim to be a part of.

The prefix "fellow" means being a partner, having or sharing in common with others (Philemon 17). Christians are those who share a common faith (Titus 1:4), salvation (Jude 3), calling (Hebrews 3:1), nature (II Peter 1:4), and relationship (Ephesians 3:6).

But simply having things in common with others does not make one "in fellowship" with them. The suffix "ship" suggests a "state, condition, quality" that must be attained and maintained by activity. Extending the "right hand of fellowship" (Galatians 2:9) and jointly participating with others in activities that we all have a common interest brings us into true fellowship. There must likewise be a "fellowship of the spirit" (Philippians 2:1) or disposition. We must all "will" the same things.

A local church is such a fellowship of saints: those with common interests, having a united spirit, and jointly working together in providing for various activities (Philippians 1:1, 5; 4:10-18).

In the work of the church do I "aid" my "fellows" in their scriptural endeavors to the extent of my ability? Do I "share" my "resources" (time, talents, money, etc.) with them as they work to accomplish their goals?

In the assemblies of the church do I seek to learn from the teaching (Galatians 6:6)? As prayer is offered do I become of "one spirit" with the one expressing thoughts to God (I Corinthians 14:16)? Do I speak to my brethren in song and make melody in my heart to God (Ephesians 5:19)? And when the death of Christ is remembered, do I partake in a "worthy manner" (I Corinthians 11:27)?

Isn't it strange that brethren can believe they are still in fellowship with a local church even though they seldom, if ever, attend the assemblies, refuse to participate in the assemblies they do attend, or fail to "lend a hand" in the various programs of work being carried on?

Brethren, whenever we withdraw our "spirits" (and we are no longer interested in what is being done), or when our participation in the work ceases because we have deliberately withdrawn it, then we have withdrawn our fellowship. How many assemblies we attend, or our names being in the directory means nothing.

Brethren, let us be actively interested and involved in the work of the local church that we may truly continue steadfastly in fellowship.