Conversations at church can help build bonds between brethren—or harm them. How can you tell if your fellowship is going wrong? What does the Bible say?
The Bible says good things about fellowship—the conversations between Christians that help build up the Church. But there are enough warnings about the wrong use of our tongues to catch our attention. What if I’m doing fellowship wrong?
Let’s look at what the Bible says.
We’re doing it wrong if …
According to the Bible, we are doing fellowship wrong if:
- We aren’t sharing in the lives of fellow believers. Superficial small talk can be a good start, but over time we should go deeper.
Consider the role of fellowship in the Church of God as it started: “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).
The NKJV Study Bible note on Acts 2:42 says, “The Greek word translated fellowship means sharing in the lives of other believers.”
Note the association of fellowship with sharing food and prayers.
- We have to stop telling a story when the person we are talking about walks up. James 4:11 admonishes, “Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law.” (See also Proverbs 6:19.)
- People don’t usually feel stirred up to “love and good works” by talking with us. Hebrews 10:24 says, “And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works.”
- People don’t usually feel inspired and encouraged by talking to us. Hebrews 10:25 continues, “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.”
The NKJV Study Bible note says, “Exhorting means coming alongside and inspiring another with the truth.”
- We don’t focus on the true and the praiseworthy. Philippians 4:8 encourages us, “Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” Thinking about these positive things leads to fellowshipping about them, as Jesus said, “For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Matthew 12:34).
- We always talk more than we listen. James 1:19 advises, “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.”
- Others go away thinking we talk about ourselves too much.
- Or others go away thinking we don’t talk about ourselves at all. We can’t build relationships with others without sharing some of our joys and struggles with close friends, and letting them share theirs.
- We don’t often come away with more things to pray about. Paul wrote, “And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26; see also Romans 12:15).
- Our fellowship never leads us to give (see 2 Corinthians 8:4; 1 John 3:17).
- We are causing divisions and offense (see Romans 16:17-18).
- Our fellowship doesn’t unify us. Paul wrote, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). In verse 11 he highlighted the problem he was correcting: “There are contentions among you.”
- We never feel a need to forebear or forgive or reconcile with a brother or sister. God calls people from different backgrounds, with rough edges that can grate on each other. But God uses the Church and our fellowship to help fit us together. The Church is compared to a building that, “being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:21).
Ephesians 4:11-12, 13-14, 15-16 describes that fitting-together process using the analogy of a body. The teaching of the ministers helps us grow, become unified and not be deceived by the winds of doctrine du jour. In the process we recognize our part in the Body of Christ, being “joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.”
- We only fellowship with new attendees who are well-dressed (or we don’t go up to meet new people at all). James warned about partiality: “For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:2-4).
- Our fellowship does not include God and is not pleasing to Him. Malachi 3:16 shows that God listens in to our fellowship:
“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”“Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them; so a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear the LORD and who meditate on His name.”
And consider 1 John 1:3, which shows our fellowship should be with the Father and with Jesus Christ.
- We are not walking with God throughout the week. John also said, “If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:6-7).
- Our fellowship does not include the gospel—involvement in the work of sharing the good news of the Kingdom of God. In Philippians 1:5 Paul talks about our “fellowship in the gospel.” (See more in our articles “What Is the Mission of the Church?” and “The Church: A Worldwide Work.”)
- Our fellowship isn’t inspired by the Spirit and helping us think more like Christ. Paul wrote, “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” (Philippians 2:1-5).
A tall order
Learning to fellowship the way God wants (and to not fellowship in ways He doesn’t want) is a lifelong project. But the benefits are worth it! Strengthening our personal relationships makes our lives more meaningful and enjoyable, and it also builds the Church and helps give it the strength to accomplish the work God gives us.
The Christian life is all about relationships, and our fellowship at church should be a vital part of that.
To learn more, see our article “Christian Fellowship.”