Dr. Louis T. Talbot tells of a time when he was conducting a meeting in Chicago. It was near the end of World War I. He writes, “I attended a fellowship dinner. There were representatives from several nations present. A Christian Jew presided over the meeting. Next to him sat a German. I, and Englishman, sat next to an Irishman. And Italian sat next to an Austrian. A Japanese sat next to a Chinese, and so no around the table. Were they fighting? Not at all! They were having the most blessed fellowship that believers can have on earth. They were united by one Spirit in Christ! At the close of the dinner, we stood and joined hands – our hearts were already united in Christian love – and sang, ‘Blest be the tie that binds!’”
Fellowship is said to be friendly association, especially with people who share the same interests. Fellowship is a blessed byproduct of being a part of the family of God. Fellowship is foundation within the Church. It is part of the natural divine design of the Church. Fellowship is void of any hint at individualism. The very nature of the word implies association among people. Sadly, many miss out on the opportunity to experience the joy of fellowship among believers – some do so by choice, others through no fault of their own. Many look at the Church and are convinced that they do not fit in. And so, they search within themselves searching for the meaning of their existence. Sydney Harris (no relation…) commented on this reality and said, “Searching for oneself within is as futile as peeling an onion to find the core: when you finish, there is nothing there but peelings; paradoxically, the only way to find oneself is to go outward to a genuine meeting with another.”
Charles Swindoll in Strengthening Your Grip, tells of our need for fellowship. But his explanation is rather interesting...and very true. He suggests that many Christian groups are like a pack of porcupines on a frigid wintry night. The cold drives us closer together in a tight huddle to keep warm. As we begin to snuggle really close, our sharp quills cause us to jab and prick each other -- a condition which forces us apart. But before long we start getting cold, so we move back to warm again, only to stab and puncture each other once more. He offers this funny poem:
To dwell above with saints we love,
That will be grace and glory.
To live below with saints we know;
That's another story.
"How can we break ye olde porcupine syndrome?" asks Swindoll. "The answer in one word is involvement. Or, to use the biblical term, it is fellowship." God has blessed us with the opportunity to be a part of his family, the Church. It is within the Church that true fellowship is enjoyed. My prayer is that we will commit ourselves to the life of Church, participating in its various ministry opportunities, engaging in biblical discussions in Bible classes and Life Groups, and being active in sharing our faith with those outside of Christ. When we do these, we will begin to understand the joy of enjoying fellowship.