Pursuing Fellowship

Written by cycleguy on October 14th, 2010

Now there is a word that gets a really bad rap.  “We are going to have a fellowship dinner.”  Meanwhile, we sit with the same old people, often rehashing the same old stuff.  Or we sit with our family that we see all the time anyway and pretend to get along.  The thing is: fellowship is really important to a person who wants to grow in their faith.  It is easy to be alone, feel alone, or to want to be left alone.  I realize there are some people who prefer to be left alone.  Some prefer to not be spoken to until they speak to someone.  Others, like me, are walking down a hall looking for someone to “bless” with their presence.  😛  But fellowship is certainly more than that.

What is your idea of fellowship?  When does fellowship take place in your scheme of thinking?  If you were to put a definition to fellowship, what would it be? As you have probably gathered I am preaching this Sunday on the second slice of Acts 2:42: fellowship.   But I also want to ask you one more question…and this is a really big one.  We have been wrestling with membership and up to this point OVCF does not have a formal membership.  But some in the leadership believe it is time.  Do you have any thoughts on it?  What does your church fellowship do? I can see the pros and cons but would really like to hear some outside sources on this topic.  I plan to weave some of your thoughts in the message so if you care to share that would be great.  Right now the plan is to ask the people to take a formal step in committing to OVCF.  I would really like to hear your thoughts on this.  Friday is my day off so I will get to your comments off and on all day.

My thanks to Dan Drewes for the banner.  Check his work out here.


27 Comments so far ↓

  1. Toby says:

    I’ll go simple on ya Bill. Fellowship to me is spending time with other believers. i’m not sure there needs to be anything specific that we’re doing, but simply being together, expressing the greatest commandment: Love.

    I’m kind of torn on the membership issue. I seen the point back at MCC. I wanted to be part of that crew and on the books as a “member”. It’s not that I don’t want to be part of where we are now, but there is such a BIG DEAL out of it, it kinda drives me nuts :-). Personally, I’d like to think people would come to our church because of the community and “fellowship” they experience, not because their name is on a roll. I know that lots of folks see it as a “you’re not allowed to give your money to any other church” sort of deal, which is a turn off. I don’t know, Bill. I don’t have any major issues with membership, but I struggle to find the point too. Just my 2 cents…if it’s worth that :D.

    • cycleguy says:

      Toby: I too am torn on the membership issue. I see the pros and cons. But I am not going to make a big deal about it either. The only difference will be that they will “belong” to something and can take ownership of it. The only other issue will be leadership. Funny thing: i am not officially a “member” of OVCF and I’m the pastor! 🙂 Appreciate your thoughts.

  2. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    Maybe there are different kinds of fellowship among believers. The more easy going meet and greet kind, the fellowship of like minded believers, the fellowship of the sufferings of Christ the Bible says, the fellowship of committment to one another, the fellowship of encouraging and exhorting each other, the fellowship of the Holy Spirit among believers, the fellowship of attending the same church services, the fellowship of some similar purposes and goals for our lives and the benefit of others lives etc. etc.
    My personal feeling is it’s not wrong to ask for people to make a committment to the body. I’m not sure about making a committment to the building. My thought is that sometimes the needs of the building are taking precedence over the needs of the believer. That’s happening in the church my sister attends in Victoria, Canada. The church is in partnership with the government for grant money to build a huge community help center. The church people will provide the volunteer labor. The food bank, the clothing center. The church congregation to my knowledge cannot use the services and help that will be provided to others by this help center. They want to minister to other christians and unbelievers?

    In the meantime no financial or other help is available for the needy in their own congregation. What’s up with that?
    My thinking is that this help center is about looking good on the outside to the community. Like Julie has said on another blog topic on your site, they are using people to build their own ‘church kingdom’ in Victoria. I don’t think that my sister is making alot of effort to get to services at the church on Sunday anymore. I totally get why. There is no real fellowship of any depth in that large church for her and my brother-in-law. The leadership and elders shake their hands and pass them by.

    • cycleguy says:

      Linda: there is fellowship on several levels. never would I ever ask for commitment to a building. the building is just that-a building. I balked at moving into a building for the reason you give here: the upkeep on the building takes precedence over ministry.

  3. Tony Alicea says:

    Not to sound “trendy” but I like the concept of community more than fellowship. More than just spending time with the saints in a formal setting, I’m going for living life together.

    I want to be in people’s lives. I want to celebrate their victories and mourn their losses. I want to spur them on, and hold them accountable when needed. You can’t do that by going to a meeting together once or twice a week or having a monthly picnic (not that there’s anything wrong with any of those things).

    My church community is really my family. We live life together and do everything with each other. I’ve never really experienced anything like it. It’s pretty amazing.

    • cycleguy says:

      Tony: I don’t think it sounds trendy to say that. If I had been thinking a bit more “trendy” I would have used community instead of fellowship. It gives off a different idea. I too need my church family. sounds like you have a really cool one. Thanks for the comment.

  4. Tom Raines says:

    Sorry I have missed past couple of really good messages as I am sitting in a seminar for 3 days…
    Fellowship to me is celebrating life with others and also accountablity. I think formal “membership” throws a switch in the human brain that you are now committed and therefore accountable. As a lay person, I like it. I was in a church for 10 years and never “knew” if I was a member or not!! I knew I was in but wasn’t sure I was “accepted”

    • cycleguy says:

      Always good to have you whenever you can get here. 🙂 Thanks for the thoughts on membership. I like the idea of a “switch.”

      • Tom Raines says:

        Thought about this too. Our current church had us on one particular Sunday write our names on the face of the stage as a commitment to winning the community. That switch went off whether I have “joined” or not.

        • cycleguy says:

          Hmmm interesting idea. Although at this point we don’t have a stage. I don’t think I want them writing their names on my face. 😛

  5. Jim F. says:

    I see fellowship as the coming out of the relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit. I see fellowship as being what the three in one do and with that I see fellowship as something we should do with each other as we do it with Christ. I see fellowship as something that is supernatural that is shared with other believers. In my mind true fellowship or sharing in life is sharing in the fullness of life of Christ with others, it is more than just a “fellowship dinner” (by the way which we are having here Sunday Night). When we get together we are sharing the fullness of life from the breaking of bread to the common bond that comes from suffering. (I hope all this makes sense)

    Membership – I think membership gives people a sense of ownership which is a positive and a negative. I think membership also gives people a sense of belonging that you only get being a member of something. To me the benefits that come from having membership out weigh the not having membership.

    Give’em Heaven on Sunday Bill! Praying for a great Sunday.

    • cycleguy says:

      Jim: Like the tie in to the Unity of the F, S, HS. Thanks for that. The ownership idea is one that brews within me about membership.

  6. I’m with Tony Alicea…I do like community rather than fellowship but I do think they should work in conjunction with each other. As for membership…well, I’m more con than pro…for a myriad of reasons, mostly experiential. That I realize may not be the best form of decision making. However, I’m in leadership at our church and we don’t have formal membership either….maybe the future?

    I don’t think I help you much on this one Bill!

    • cycleguy says:

      Jay: you helped with the community comment. As for the membership…do you think that you might in the future? If so, what are your cons and pros? I would like to hear them either way. 🙂

  7. jeff harris says:

    I think young people call it “hanging out”. Growing up my parents called it “visiting” (i.e. we are going to visit or so and so is coming to visit.) Fellowship or Community sound a bit more formal but they work as well. I guess there is some inner need in people to mix with other agreeable people to exchange ideas or niceties or just to “socialize” If you are really try at it you could even get to be a “Socialite”. Fellowship happens for me mostly at work as I prefer quiet time most of the rest of the time.
    As for “membership” I am not sure what the advantages would be. I do understand why Country Clubs and other social groups require or prefer “memberships” It becomes a status thing to be a member of this or that. Not sure how that would relate to a Church. Would a member get something that a non-member wouldn’t?

    • cycleguy says:

      Jeff: I think most people do have the idea that membership gives special advantages, the primary one being “I get to go to heaven because I am a member of a church.” That will be specifically addressed Sunday. The main member vs. non-member is in leadership (elders) I think. ‘Course I don’t know if I have room to talk. I am not a formal member of the church. 🙂

  8. Kim says:

    I know I want to have fellowship like Tony spoke of. I want to make those real connections with other believers. Sadly I can’t seem to find that in my day to day life. Certainly haven’t found that in my current church.

    But I have found a form of that, at least the mental support from my community online. So that is something am really appreciative of.

    As for membership, I will be honest and say I have never been a “member” of a church. Down south that is a really big deal (I think you may have to sign in blood 🙂 )but I never really understood it. As far as I can see it just causes political drama within the church. But thats just me. Sorry I couldn’t be more helpful on that topic.

    • cycleguy says:

      Kim: I think what you have stated along with Tony is what the Bible really talked about when it talked about fellowship i.e. community. Real connections. Real people. I too appreciate the mental support of the online community. And I despise political drama. Thanks for the input. It was important.

  9. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    I think what Kim says here and what some others have said is important. Especially the politcal aspect. Accepting and promoting the party line so to speak. Does non-membership mean that someone without memebership will be sidelined? Not really heard? Not taken seriously as an essential member of the body? Does church membership make the distinction between who can use their gifts from God in the church and who can’t? What if someone’s gift is leadership? Who decides? I think there are some important matters to hammer out and all of the people in the church should understand what the issues are and the concerns and pros about membership. I think that
    everyone should be involved in this decision at this early stage. This kind of church membership is not a Biblical principle. As far as I can see there were no membership requirements in the Bible. This is a tradition of the church.

  10. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    The idea of membership may put a burden on people rather than a sense of belonging. What is the purpose of membership? Getting a committment of finances? Putting the focus of people on the needs of the building? The new addition? Protecting the financial investment that some individuals have made in the purchase of the building at the first? My initial reaction to church membership is ‘no’. This move is going to exalt those who have financially committed and undermine those who haven’t. Just my opinion. church isn’t about letting those who have money take control of the agenda and goals of the body of Christ. And I think that membership requirements might enable this dynamic. Not my cup of tea.

    • cycleguy says:

      Linda: I am going to combine two responses into one. I have spent the past 6 weeks (not counting the last) on what is important and what is not. I spent three weeks on the Tabernacle, Temple and its dedication. I spent 3 weeks on the church in the NT and am using this series In Pursuit of 2:42 to further that study. The people know that we are not committing to a building. The focus of the people is not on the building. What we are trying to do with the consideration of church membership is a commitment of time, talent and treasure to the ministry that God has placed before us. we will still allow for non-members to teach and work in the children’s program, sing on the worship team, and serve in various ways. You say it is not a biblical thing. Perhaps it does not specifically say that but it does not prohibit it either. I think evidence can be inferred from some of Paul’s writings that there was a commitment to Christ first, and then to the body of believers. We don’t vote on matters so it is not a political thing either. We are not requiring membership but looking for those who will commit to this local body. Thanks for your comments.

  11. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    I think I understand to some extent the reason for membership, however, I think it creates unlevel ground. It puts a difference between believers. Those who have more ‘privileges’ in their church are members. Are the people who agree to membership making a type of oath to God? What if they end up not being able to keep that oath? Who’s responsible?
    The Bible teaching puts everyone on the same horizontal line so to speak. Jews, Greeks, slave, free, rich, poor, why does church tradition want to do something different? The congregation at OVCF went along and did well for 6 years without membership. Things went really well. Now leadership people at OVCF want to do something to possibly irreversibly change this dynamic? Why?

  12. lindaM says:

    Hi Bill,
    I think that membership to me represents man’s arm of flesh. It’s God’s Holy Spirit that should be raising up leadership in the church. I think that this issue might be man’s way of trying to do this his own way.
    I think that a body of believers has to have faith that God will hold and add people and create committment in the hearts of the people. If God doesn’t, so be it. The congregation learns from its mistakes and endeavors to build up the body again. No membership role is needed for God, this is all about man.

  13. Michelle says:

    I did not read the other comments, but I must admit, fellowship is not my strong suit. I have tried at church to join in on things, to get to know people, and our church is so big…it just never happens. Someone you see one week might be gone the next. Our church is always splitting off into new churches or sending off missionaries. It’s hard to feel like you ever really know anyone there. As for membership, our church has a membership class that they hold (I’m currently not a member due to no childcare at these classes) and I think they share their testimony with the elders too. Once that goes through, they stand up (there is usually about 20 of them) and repeat some agreement about what they believe or they just say “I will” at the end of it. Then the pastor asks if anyone feels they should not be members…and well, that never happens. And so then they are prayed over and the church service proceeds. I have to say, I do believe in membership. Its a way for you to say that you are committed to serving and worshiping in that church. It’s a way for others to keep you accountable. I have been in many churches where I wasn’t a member and I have never felt left out, or less because I wasn’t a member. In our church, I think to be a member, you also must be apart of a “shepherd group” which is a way to keep each other accountable. Unfortunately for me, they don’t have any shepherd groups in our area and when we did sign up for one, they cancelled after the second meeting. I think they have these because our church is so big. i don’t know if any of that helped…but there it is.

    • cycleguy says:

      Michelle: I do appreciate you taking the time to respond. It appears Bethlehem wants to make sure those who are members know exactly what they are committing themselves to. It should help clear the wheat from the chaff.

  14. Michelle says:

    Bill, I just read your above comment to Linda. I wanted to add..I think what you say is very biblical. Our church too lets anyone serve in ministry but they do background checks on them (esp. if its childcare) and make them meet with the staff and give their testimony. They have to be approved. Team leaders and more important roles go to people who are actual members of the church. I think this is valid because they are known by a group either small or large and they can vouch for that person. I don’t think its unfair at all. Bill, I think you need to go with what God is speaking to you here. Sure there will be opposition, but really — no one has to be a member. They can say “NO” and not have anything to do with it. Or they can commit to something wonderful and be held accountable to others and be a family. That is what family is. Saying you are comitted to each other…just like marriage. You take a vow to love, honor, and obey and you try your best, with God’s help, to fulfill the marriage vows. I think the church is the same way.

    • cycleguy says:

      Thanks again Michelle for your response. I do believe that after studying this issue for 4-5 years the leaders felt now was the right time to suggest it. We had a pretty good response I believe (I haven’t had a chance to look since I am gone). I like your comparison to marriage and the vow taken.