CHAPTER TWELVE Fellowship Fellowship is another of the four things that the New Testament church devoted them selves to. Two that we have already considered include the apostles teaching and the breaking of bread. The final one, prayer, will be considered in the next chapter. So, what is the Biblical understanding of fellowship? It’s obvious that it means much more than what we today usually consider fellowship. When we think of fellowship the kinds of things that come to mind are get togethers, picnics, covered dish dinners, hanging out with friends or having a conversation. That may be fellowship but it’s a far cry from what the kind of fellowship the early believers devoted them selves to. The Greek work that is translated “fellowship” in the Bible is the word “koinania” that embraces a range of relationships that our modern use of the word “fellowship” simply doesn’t touch. It involves the development of deep relationships, getting along with one another, really learning to know one another, bearing each others burdens, confessing faults to one another, praying for each other, encouraging one another and living together in accountable relationships. Therefore, when God created and placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden it was an extension of community that already existed in the Godhead. That’s what made it such a wonderful place. They experienced fellowship in its fullest form and expression. In unbroken relationships it was a place of giving and receiving in complete openness, honesty and transparency that can only happen in community. Spiritual, emotional and physical intimacy was altogether pure and completely void of shame. God and man were able to walk and talk together freely with total ease and comfort. In essence, the result of sin entering the garden was the breaking of relationships, the destruction of community and the loss of fellowship. Life quickly turned from ecstasy to tragedy. Jealousy arose that lead to murder. One tragic event followed another. Mankind degenerated from bad to worse until God repented that he had even created man and purposed to destroy what he had created. However, the Bible tells us that Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord. God spared him and his family and thus spared the human race from being completely wiped out. Community The Centrality of the Cross The nature of Biblical fellowship can perhaps be summed up best by the concept of community. The teachings of Dr. Ralph Neighbour Jr. have been very helpful to us in shaping our understanding of community. What the believers in the early church experienced was a restoration of community. It was restoration because that is what God created us for in the beginning. Actually it was the way things were before the beginning. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit lived in community before creation. They were one in purpose and heart. The story of the Old Testament is one of God calling his people back into community with Himself. It was an up and down, in and out experience to say the least. God so desired to be in fellowship with his creation only to have his offer rejected time after time. But in the fullness of time God sent his own Son to restore the relationship that was broken, the community that was destroyed and the fellowship that was lost. He gave up his life and taking upon himself the sin of the whole world, he died on a cruel cross at the hands of his own creation saying to the Father, forgive them for they know not what they are doing. When Jesus spoke of the Father he said that he and the Father were one and the same. He said if they had seen him they had seen the Father. When Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit coming he referred to him as another one exactly like himself. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are three persons in one. It’s a mystery that we cannot fully understand. While we may never experience community to the same degree as the Trinity, that was nevertheless what we were created for. For the first time in all eternity the community that existed in the Godhead was broken when Jesus cried out, “My God, why have you forsaken me.” You see? It’s through what Jesus did on the cross that provides the foundation for restoring community. The key to living in community and experiencing the quality of fellowship demonstrated in the New Testament is first going to the cross realizing that it was my sin and your sin that put Jesus there. The early believers 28 lived in the reality of the cross. That is the reason they were able to devote them selves to Biblical fellowship and a common unity. Confessing their sins, carrying each other’s burdens, laying down their lives for one another, showing compassion, submitting to and honoring one another and being patient and forgiving of one another was simply the practical outcome of having personally identified with the cross. The reason so much of our modern fellowship is so shallow in comparison is because much of the church has gotten way from teaching the cross. Living the crucified life seems to be foreign and unfamiliar to many churchgoers today. In too many instances, feel good religion has replaced sacrifice, personal preferences have replaced truth and convenience has replaced obedience. With a vision to experience church like we read about in the Bible, Cornerstone does not hesitate to call people to a radical commitment to Jesus. Equipping the Saints for Ministry We take seriously the Scriptural mandate to equip the saints to do the work of ministry. Not having time is no excuse for disobedience. Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples. For three years he poured his life into twelve men that he chose to be with him. Normally, these men would not have associated with each other. Apart from their relationship with Jesus they had little in common. But living with Jesus for three years had a profound affect on them. Jesus modeled a life of love, acceptance and forgiveness. At first they struggled and competed for position. But slowly their values changed. They learned that to be a leader meant being a servant. They learned that true worth and significance was not in what they were able to do but in who they were. By living with these twelve men, Jesus gave us a picture of how community works. He didn’t just call them together for an hour or two on Sunday morning. He spent time with them. They took trips together. They went fishing. They visited Jerusalem together. They had cookouts by the sea. It was three years of hands on interactive training that turned them into faithful disciples. When Jesus left the earth to return to the Father, he commissioned them to go and make other disciples. He left the whole future of the church he came to establish in the hands of his disciples. When the Holy Spirit was poured out as promised those disciples were so energized that it was said of them that 29 they turned the world upside down. Turning the World Upside Down We believe that God is again raising up a people that will turn the world upside down. We have purposed to be part of what God is doing today. One of our early policies was not to ask God to bless what we were doing but rather to align ourselves with what God was blessing. As we look around today, it is evident that God is pouring out his blessing on the local church. Over the last fifty years or so it seems like the cutting edge for evangelism and discipleship has been in parachurch organizations. Billy Graham and other crusade evangelists have been used in the past to bring many people into the Kingdom. Navigators founded by Dawson Trotman and YWAM founded by Loren Cunningham have been greatly used in discipleship training and mission outreach. But as good as these things have been, what I see God doing today is restoring evangelism and discipleship to the local church in the context of community and fellowship like it was in the beginning. Churches today that are realizing the greatest results are those that have developed a system that effectively wins lost people to Christ, helps them get free from sinful patterns, disciples them and equips them to win and disciple others. A pattern that seems to be coming into its own was developed by Robert Coleman and published in a book, The Master Plan of Evangelism about forty years ago. Dr. Coleman was way ahead of his time. It seems that just now the principles he outlined in his book forty years ago are being embraced and implemented in a practical way. In keeping with our commitment to follow God one step at a time as he leads the way we are on the brink of a new adventure that will take us to the next level in experiencing church like we read about in the Bible. About ten years ago we embraced the values of the cell church in an attempt to devote our selves more fully to Biblical fellowship and community. With what we have learned and experienced we are poised and ready to do whatever it takes to align our selves with the new paradigm God seems to be blessing today. Our goal is to leave no one behind.