Finding True Christian Fellowship
by Glen Williams
We've all heard the popular Christian lament, "Why can't we be more like the early churches?" It seems the further we get from the ascension of Christ, the more we look like the Scribes and Pharisees He criticized, with our rules, rituals, pomp, ceremony and upper class of privileged and educated rulers who cannot be questioned. This isn't meant as a hit-piece on modern churches and denominations, but as a cry for the Body of Christ to choose the spiritual reality over the worldly counterfeit. While commercial buildings and professional speakers, counselors, teachers and musicians are valuable, they can never replace the genuine fellowship of true Christians, serving God in each other's homes and lives. I pray this article helps each reader find true Christian fellowship and each church to give true fellowship a priority over canned services.
Spirit-Led Fellowship-vs-Human-Led Fellowship: As churches get bigger, the need for order in the services takes a higher priority. Gone is the loving shepherd who knows the name of every person in the church. Now, we have executives who command a staff of professionals who deliver 5 completely choreographed services each Sunday and mid-week, as well. While these services are very entertaining and often educational, they bear no resemblance to the regular gathering of Christians encouraged in the New Testament. Even a smaller church of, say, 150 can't generate the intimate fellowship of the early Christians. The size, preferences and schedules of such a large group demand a canned speaking and music program, along with top-down organization of all church functions. The early Church was not this way. They didn't need church buildings or professional speakers and musicians. They met, ate, prayed and studied in each other's homes. Paul writes that "each person" has a prayer, song, prophecy, etc. and that these things "must be done" to build up the church. The Holy Spirit is fully capable of using every Christian if we would let Him. This would strengthen the whole group and the individuals being used by the Lord. Unfortunately, it can't happen in any real and meaningful way in a large group.
Real Fellowship-vs-Artificial Fellowship: Instead of real fellowship among genuine Christians, the large weekly meetings at most churches tends to create an artificial atmosphere, where it's important to look like you have it all together for the hour or two you're in front of the church people. Over the course of 10 years as a pastor at two churches (1 medium, 1 large), I counseled hundreds of people. I can't express just how dishonest Christians can be when they think someone at church might discover the truth about them. I can count on one hand the people I know were telling the truth and I don't need all the fingers of that hand. Most of them counseled with me so they could tattle on someone else. I praise God for giving me a web ministry where people find us by searching for help with their problems. The anonymity of the Internet allows people to be real with God in a risk-free environment. They don't know me, so I can't gossip about them. Several people have written us for help with their problems, claiming they can't discuss them in their churches because people would judge them. How can you be real in such an environment? Speaking as a church staff insider, the amount of artificiality in church fellowship is disgusting. I don't know how people can claim life in the Truth and show up every week with a fake smile, fake love, fake spirituality to visit with fake friends, and call it fellowship. Genuine Christian fellowship is...genuine. It has real problems and real pain with real friends showing real love with real prayer and real help. Genuine Christian fellowship can't happen a couple hours a week...it's a full-time commitment.
Voluntary Fellowship-vs-Compulsory Fellowship: Genuine fellowship is voluntary in every respect. It amazes me how much pressure and manipulation are used to make large crowds do unnatural things, like welcome strangers, stand to pray, sing, donate money, etc. I'm happy to see a lot of churches, out of faith in God, are going from the compulsory offering plate to the offering box by the door. A genuine offering to God doesn't have to be squeezed out of you. A minister who has faith in God doesn't have to do any squeezing. If fellowship were natural in a large group, there would not have to be a greeting time, ushers, greeters, guest cards, fellowship services, pot luck dinners, social events, or any of the other things churches do to try to make a large group seem close and friendly. These things would be happening spontaneously and guests would be able to feel the love without it being on the "order of worship." One thing these efforts at manipulation prove beyond doubt is that churches know of this weakness in their design and are willing to make changes to overcome it. This is where I have to take my hat off to church leaders world-wide. You see the problem and you're trying to find solutions.
Fellowship Solutions For Modern Churches: Unfortunately, you can't make a large group be intimate any more than you can make a tomato vine produce cars. It isn't in their nature. The fellowship solutions for modern churches all involve small, intimate groups of Christians, meeting in each other's homes. I'm not talking about a top-down "small group ministry" with approved curriculum and schedule, etc. I'm not talking about breaking into small groups at the church campus, or worse, during the service. This is just more manipulation. If genuine Christian Fellowship is your aim, the small home group must be where the church meets for, fellowship, worship, prayer and food. The larger meetings (for celebration) would be secondary...not even necessary on a weekly basis. This could free up over 50% of the average church budget for actual ministry efforts, rather than real estate development and facility maintenance.
Despite the weaknesses in the modern church ministry model, many Christians are finding genuine fellowship with other Christians in homes and coffee shops and other places where they meet. Many churches are embracing small groups, even to the point of shutting down large corporate worship meetings in favor of home groups. They are to be admired! They understand that, whether we attend a Mega-Church or watch church on T.V. alone, we need small groups for true, intimate Christian fellowship so we can to do the "one-anothers" in the Bible and grow in the Body Of Christ.
About the Author
Glen Williams is Webmaster at http://www.web-church.com
and CEO of E-Home Fellowship (EHF), Inc. He is an ordained minister who has been active in Christian ministry since 1989, counseling and helping people live in Christ. You can comment on his articles at
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