Was it fellowship or just friendship?

Related Devotional

From Journal Entry 8-22-09

“We make a huge mistake when we assume that fellowship takes place just because we attend the same event together, even regularly, or because we belong to the same organization. Fellowship happens when people share the journey of knowing Jesus together. It consists of open, honest sharing, genuine concern about one another’s spiritual well being and encouragement for people to follow Jesus however He leads them.” (From “So You Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore” by Jacobsen, Wayne & Coleman))

There came a time when I was still in the Work, when I redefined for myself the meaning of fellowship. Friendship with a believer didn’t mean we also had fellowship. Both can contain times of being vulnerable, going deeper in our visiting than just surface things but friendships don’t necessarily center on God/Jesus. Fellowship suggests a deeper & more meaningful connection, but more importantly, its center is God Himself.

Why am I worrying about this? I grew weary of hearing “Oh, we had such wonderful fellowship!” and I knew, because I was there, that the visit had consisted of talking about the workers or the friends, or farming, or kids, or recipes or any number of things that were perfectly normal to talk about. But don’t say it was fellowship. Fellowship is, to me, almost a holy word. It changes lives and directions. It does something for and to everyone involved. We walk away from true fellowship with something shifted in our souls. We don’t see things quite the same as we did before. We come away with something to pray about and we can’t wait to talk to God about it. There is often an “aha” moment in true fellowship. You shared with your friend(s) where you and God were at the moment perhaps or where you longed your relationship to be. You truly listened to your friend or they listened to you and your (their) spiritual well being was of utmost importance.

Fellowship doesn’t have to be intense.  It doesn’t mean you have to be having a Bible study.  I think its sharing with another where God has been in your life.

Another journal entry quote from 11-7-09

From the book “Girl Meets God” by Lauren Winner. The author was detailing her relationship between herself and her father (a Jew) after she became a Christian. “He asked me not to talk about it; that he could accept it, he wouldn’t disown me or count me for dead, but that he didn’t want to, or couldn’t, hear the details. So we don’t talk much about church, or God or prayer. And when we talk about other things, a creeping superficiality marks our conversations. (Emphasis mine) I tell him about the papers I am writing for school, but I don’t speak about vocation. I tell him about decisions I make, but I never speak about prayerfully discerning God’s will for my life. I tell him about buying a new desk. I do not tell him about all the ways I am slowly turning into the person God wants me to become.” Another character in the book who also became a Christian tells about how her marriage had become somewhat surface skating.

Since my late teens, I had a very real longing for depth in my life. Determined not to live a shallow life, I prayed earnestly for God to make sure that didn’t happen. I wanted depth to my friendships and I could hardly bear it when, like the author wrote above, “a creeping superficiality marks our conversations.” As a teen and in my 20’s, mostly it meant I was only happy when the conversation was about me! It’s true! Really I think that defined to me for years whether or not a visit was profound or not. Oh boy!

Eventually, a time came when it didn’t have to be about me but something of value, something eternal. A major “aha” moment came in the last couple of years when I realized the depth I craved and was looking for in other people, was the depth of God. It’s been Him all along. “Deep calling unto deep.” Yes! “Oh the depth….” as Paul wrote. Oh the depth! The depth in me could ONLY be satisfied by the depth in Him.

I’m thankful for girlfriends that I can talk about what color to paint my bathroom, or about the new pillows for my sofa. Or what to fix for dinner. A girl needs those kinds of conversations…they are very important! Big issues are at stake here. 🙂

But true fellowship is risky and scary and worth every fear and trepidation. We NEED it. We need each other. We need to be honest and open with each other AND with God. I noticed a verse about our fellowship with Christ and with God. You can’t really have true fellowship with another person unless you have first of all had fellowship with God.

I think true fellowship within the meeting fellowship is rarer than some might admit. I remember having really good visits with a few of my fellow laborers that were very encouraging at the time. I believe some of those times were indeed true fellowship, but I also know that there were times when it was just a good visit. (Again, nothing wrong with that.) I need people in my life who encourage me to grow spiritually, to take steps of faith. I want to encourage others to go deeper, take the risk of being uncomfortable for the sake of true fellowship. There is so much to gain if we do. Let’s not just live on the surface of life; too much is at stake. People need to be heard, validated, and loved. We can bring the love and spirit of Christ into every conversation and turn it from two friends talking to two eternal souls conversing.

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5 thoughts on “Was it fellowship or just friendship?

  1. “You cannot have true fellowship with another person unless you have first of all had fellowship with God”
    That is so true…our fellowship with God is what determines who we are to one another…when we have the real love relationship with God …it makes a great difference in our whole perception of people/things…

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  2. Darla, we continue to enjoy what you are sharing on your blog regarding the transformation of your heart, mind and spirit. We often feel and comment that we have had a very similar feeling or experience regarding nearly every topic you present. This topic on true spiritual fellowship was huge in our experience. For several decades, we deceived ourselves by accepting or assuming that every social interaction we had with the “friends” and/or “workers” was a fellowship experience. When we finally allowed the Holy Spirit to open our eyes to teachings of Jesus, we began to understand that there was an enormous difference between true spiritual fellowship and the frequent social interactions we had been enjoying for years. As you say, there is nothing wrong with friendship, but it should never be confused with nor take the place of true fellowship.

    The seminal definition of fellowship for us is found in the First Epistle of John, chapter 1, verse 7: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.”

    Fellowship with one another is not something we do (i.e. go to meetings, group sings, pot luck dinners, convention preps, etc.), it is something we mutually experience as a RESULT of individually walking in the light of Christ!

    Earlier, in verse 3, John stated that they (the apostles) had declared to these believers what they had seen and heard when they were with Jesus, “so that you (the new believers) also may have fellowship with us (the apostles). What fellowship? “And OUR fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ.” This is may be the same verse you were referring to, Darla, when you wrote in your post: “I noticed a verse about our fellowship with Christ and with God. You can’t really have true fellowship with another person unless you have first of all had fellowship with God.”

    Clearly, the fellowship with one another that John desired was a mutual, personal fellowship with the Father and Son, not just friendship or even social interaction among believers. There is little wonder why John would reach such a conclusion when one considers the very words of Jesus that the Apostles heard. Jesus taught that personal relationships among brethren should manifest love, compassion, forgiveness and service but He also clearly taught that unity among believers was achieved only by individually believing, obeying, following and abiding in Him, not in one another.

    Each year during our convention preps, I would remove the lower branches from the large Pin Oaks in the central RV parking area. One year, I received a sobering lesson from that exercise. As I was throwing the individual branches onto the burn pile, it occurred to me that these branches had never been in such close “fellowship” when growing on their respective trees, but now, since they were no longer abiding in the living tree, their exceptional closeness was pointless.

    An interesting thing happened when we finally mustered the courage to “leave the meetings”. We initially missed the social interaction of going to the “fellowship meetings” (which had long since become habitual). But then we realized that now, in our relative solitude, our fellowship with the Father and the Son was quickly growing deeper because we were focusing on them rather than on “fellowship events” and our relationships with the friends and workers. We also began to open our eyes and minds to see opportunities for true fellowship among believers who were truly walking in the light of Christ whenever, wherever and with whomever they occurred. It was amazing to us that setting aside our prior judgmental attitudes and simply observing the fruits of faith in Christ in the lives of other believers could result in spontaneous fellowship, ranging from a brief acknowledgement of Christ as Lord (not just Savior) to an in-depth discussion of a particular portion of scripture with otherwise complete strangers.

    For two and a half years, we did not attend regularly scheduled “fellowship events” or “worship services” anywhere. Instead, we together enjoyed many wonderful sessions of reading aloud and discussing scripture and the works of various Bible teachers and authors most days of each week, not just on Sundays. Just before Easter last year, the Spirit led us into contact with a small, non-denominational group of Christ-focused believers in our new home town. We have enjoyed having real Bible studies with them and have attended many of their simple Sunday worship services held in the cafeteria of a local community college. As long as we can enjoy the fellowship of mutually focusing on Christ and feeding on the Bread of Life we will continue, but if they shift from being a Christ-centered group to a bounded group, focusing on their own identity, creed, organization, structure and growth, as most grass-roots groups eventually do, we will look for fellowship elsewhere.

    As John wrote so long ago, if we individually walk in the light of Christ, we WILL have fellowship with others who do the same, whenever and wherever we encounter them. And, we won’t have to become an official member of any organization or group to have it as long as we are a member of the Body of Christ. Sorry for the long “comment” but thanks for the inspiration. 🙂

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    • Dennis,
      Your words were wonderful! Thank you for taking the time to write all you did. I really valued your additional thoughts on the subject of fellowship and I admire and value the journey you and Jane have been on. You are an inspiration to me and an encouragement as well.

      Darla

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    • Dennis,
      I really enjoyed your comments. So much of what Darla writes reflects my own journey as well. Your ability to now enjoy fellowship spontaneously with any believer is a marvelous thing which I, too, have come to enjoy. It is deeply encouraging to hear of your experiences as well as others. It affirms that God is working in others with similar backgrounds of wrong doctrine.

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  3. I love what you said about true fellowship changing lives and directions! This has been my experience. It is only possible to have true fellowship with another if first the parties concerned have had fellowship with God through Christ, as you have stated. I am so grateful for the times my life has changed direction as a result of a deeply open and honest fellowship with another. We become vulnerable on the human level of existence but so fulfilled on the spiritual level. I love shared revelation. It inspires me to learn more of the true nature of God. The last sentence sums it up beautifully. Thank you for this post.

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