Have you ever had the experience of feeling that you are the “odd person out”? You have to attend a professional meeting or something you feel you should attend but would prefer to skip it. But you can’t. You have to attend. Others stand around talking, laughing, and conversing, but you stand in the back of the room alone and intimidated, looking for the exit, thinking only about getting out. What you really want to do is escape, and as fast as possible.
That’s the same frustration that keeps some people on the outside of the church—the loner, not thinking they fit, yet desperately wanting a relationship with God and other authentic, genuine people with the same fears, frustrations, dreams, and hopes that they have.
Luke, describing the dynamics of first-century Christianity, says that the believers “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Four elements were present: doctrine (that’s biblical teaching), fellowship (interactions between fellow believers), breaking of bread (probably communion) and, yes, prayer, touching God for their needs, His protection, His will, and His purpose.
Then those who feared the Lord talked with each other, and the Lord listened and heard. Malachi 3:16
Has the church failed to maintain those dynamics? Some have. But others are rediscovering them. Among them are small groups of people who have abandoned traditional churches, opting for mini-churches, no less than house churches, where a group of anywhere from a half-dozen to three times that number meet in the warmth of a home and practice their faith. No, they are not in Communist or Islamic countries, but in major metropolitan areas. Driving past the buildings called “churches” they opt for the warmth of a small fellowship that they affectionately call “my church!”
Missing in many traditional churches is the element known as fellowship. The Greek word koinonia, usually translated as “fellowship,” was used three ways in the first century. Yes, of course, the traditional meaning of personal interaction was primary, but the same word was used for the intimacy enjoyed in marriage when two persons were deeply committed to each other. It was also used for the wrapping of a scroll around the central shaft—much as we would describe the closeness of pages at the binding of a book.
The British pastor, G. Campbell Morgan, wrote, “The ordinance of fellowship, we have too much neglected. It has become very difficult for Christian people to talk about the things of Christ to each other. They meet together in ordinary life, and they talk about everything except the deepest things of their spiritual life. They have never learned how to help each other in mutual conversation concerning them.”
Following the resurrection, in those forty days that Jesus was here on Earth before His ascension into heaven, he had both fellowship and ate and drank with the disciples.
Suppose you go to church and feel like the “odd-person-out” I described at the beginning of today’s commentary. In that case, I suggest you begin looking for a fellowship where you can join in worship, commitment, and fellowship and grow in grace and the knowledge of Jesus Christ. That’s all part of what God intended for you as His child.
A final thought: God created us with the need for fellowship both with others and with Him as well. Remember, in the cool of the evening, God came down to have fellowship with Adam, who had hidden himself from the Father. God not only puts the need for fellowship into our lives but also designed the solution to that need. That’s where a relationship with Him comes into the picture with one another and certainly, with our Heavenly Father.
Resource reading: Acts 2:42-47
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