• The BaptistWay lesson for June 29 focuses on Acts 2:42-47 and Romans 12:3-13.
The church I attended as a teenager was named Fellowship Baptist Church. I have no knowledge behind this choice for its name.
Ironically, I do know it started as a split from another church in town when the pastor had an affair with the secretary. You might say this fellowship found it impossible to continue having fellowship with the congregation from which it severed ties. Interestingly, that did not stop the new church from using the term “fellowship” in its name, nor did it keep it from having numerous fellowship gatherings.
This scenario demonstrates the wide and various ways we use the term “fellowship.” It might refer to a specific church, the relationships of the various people within a church or an action in which the people of a church engage. As a teenager, I assumed the word was synonymous with a social gathering, or as some like to call them, “eat-and-greet” times. To be sure, fellowship is included in these events, but it takes a lot more than some fried chicken or a plate of pimento cheese sandwiches to create authentic fellowship.
Fellowship isn’t an event we attend or a social activity in which we engage. Fellowship refers to the special connection followers of Christ have that enables them to relate to one another uniquely and specifically. We will draw out three aspects of fellowship from this week’s Scripture
Living (Acts 2:42-47)
It’s impossible to read the tone in which the words of any passage of Scripture were written. However, I have read this passage as a sort of matter-of-fact description of how the early church in Acts functioned and related. There is little commentary on what is described. It seems to be written in a way that asks to be read in a straight-laced, descriptive voice. Yet the actions described are far from ordinary.
The common thread that runs through everything mentioned is the fact the people did things together: “Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (vv. 46-47). Regardless of what you name a church, call an event or eat at a potluck, you cannot have fellowship the way the Bible describes it when everyone is not together.
Serving (Romans 12:3-8)
This is one of the many places where the Apostle Paul mentions spiritual gifts, and none of them are identical. If you have taken a spiritual gifts inventory, perhaps you received a score based on a list of gifts that may have included preaching, encouragement, hospitality, service, etc. I used to think spiritual gifts were limited to the lists mentioned in Scripture and on these kinds of inventories.
However, I know of at least one spiritual gift in Baptist life we recognize that is not mentioned explicitly in this context in the Bible—music. Can you imagine going to a Baptist service where no one led the music? In my grandmother’s Lutheran congregation, that is how it is done. The organ accompanies with pronounced emphasis when it is time for the congregation to begin singing. Is their way more biblical since “music ministry” is not listed as a spiritual gift? Of course not!
The spiritual gifts mentioned in Scripture are not exhaustive. In verses 6-8, Paul begins using specific gifts in a formula: “if your gift is _______, then ______.” This formula is repeated for several specific gifts, but you can put just about anything in those blanks. Whatever your gift is, use it. Use it with and alongside others seeking to use their gifts as well. That is how you serve in fellowship.
Loving (Romans 12:9-13)
This section begins with the phrase “Love must be sincere” (v. 9). All that follows until verse 13 is a description of what sincere love looks like within Christian fellowship. It’s one thing to voice love for one another, but it is another to live it out.
One of the common remarks you’ll hear during the announcement and greeting time at your average church—mine included—is how the church is a friendly and loving group. In many cases, I’m sure this is true. However, I sometimes wonder if this is said because that is the way we think it is supposed to be. No one wants to be honest if their church is anything less than loving and friendly. Yet how many times have you walked into a church that struck you as less than this? Love must be sincere, because sincere love creates sincere fellowship.
Living, serving and loving all are verbs, because fellowship is a verb. It is not a name, a place or an event. It is something you do. How might God be calling you to “do fellowship” in your church body?