I receive a number of church bulletins each week from several sections of the country. I appreciate them being sent to me; for the most part I have profited from reading them. One of the things I have particularly noticed has been the frequent use of the word "fellowship." Not only have I noticed the use, I have observed both the overuse and abuse of this word. To illustrate what I mean: An article in a church bulletin received last fall stated in part, "periods of fellowship are a source of strength to this congregation." But in the very next sentence we were told what this "fellowship" was --- it was a "Halloween party in the fellowship hall of the church building." Also, a recent bulletin to cross my desk announced: -- "members are reminded to bring sandwiches and drinks to the fellowship hall and stay for an hour of fellowship following the services on Sunday evening."
The word "fellowship" is a good word; it is a Bible word; however. I know of no passage that uses the word to describe social meals or recreational activities. I do realize that the word is used in a modern sense to identify social and recreational activities, but it is apparent to the Bible student that there is a vast amount of difference between the modern, secular use and the Bible use of the word.
The Bible definition of the word is, "communion, partnership, sharing in common, or participation with." But what did the early Christians share? When they were together; they "shared" in prayers, the Lord's Supper, and the teaching of God's Word (Acts 2:42). The Christians at Corinth were called into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). Paul wrote about the help of the Corinthian Christians to needy saints and called it "the fellowship of the ministering to the saints" (2 Cor. 8:4).
The Philippian Christians were also praised for their "fellow-ship (with Paul) in the furtherance of the gospel" (by their contributions made to him as he preached the gospel in other places) (Phil. 1:5).
Our fellowship is with one another by "walking in the light" (1 Jno. 1:7), and this is the fellowship the Christian should be interested in. These are but a few of the more than twenty New Testament passages that alude to the fellowship, partnership, or joint participation in religious matters by early Christians. And by a careful study of these references, it is evident that they all refer to spiritual matters and never to recreational, social, or secular activities such as Halloween parties, church suppers, or ball games.
Incidentally, in reference to the church that met in the "fellowship hall of the church" (building) for an hour of fellowship following the services on Sunday evening: I wonder if there was any "fellowship" in the service itself? Was not the fellowship with God by the church as it met together to sing, pray, study, etc."? Was there not sharing nor joint participation in religious matters then --- rather than in some social activity following the period of worship to God?
My friends, the error all begins when the word "fellowship" is taken out of its Scriptural context and made to apply to social recreational, or entertainment activities, which is not the Biblical use fo the word. And a second grave spiritual blunder that often ensues is to build and maintain a fellowship hall to carry out this unscriptural practice.
I do encourage the fellowship of Christians in public assemblies for the purpose of worshipping God. I also encourage social and recreational activities among Christians; that these activities be carried out by the individual and be a part of the activities of the home, which is the center for social and recreational activities.
I, however, stand opposed to social and recreational activities and/or facilities for these activities being financed with the Lord's money, and being called "Bible fellowship," and labeled "a good work of the church."
Brethren, let us call Bible things by Bible names, and do Bible things in Bible ways!
By Bob Walton taken from the Cahaba Heights Bulletin, of April, 1980
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