Is there a "model" for what fellowship should look like?


#1

I am familiar with the Biblical passages - “each has a song…” and such. Here, I am wondering in print if we are to RETURN to a Biblical pattern (“1st Century”) for fellowship, or does God perhaps want us to explore and just be satisfied with Him leading us wherever He wants us. When someone says they want to return to 1st-century patterns for the Body, what does that mean? Maybe God doesn’t want us to “go back” to early Christianity as much as proceeding on and making it even better in Him and with His leading.

Jesus is “the same, yesterday, today, and forever,” but that doesn’t mean we have to all function and behave the same always. Not that doing the same or similar activities is bad to God, because it is the heart of the matter that is important to Him, not the outward appearance. But we humans have a tendency to get into ruts, doing the same things over and over, and pretty soon we are stuck there and expecting others to do the same - at the worst, then, a new denomination is born!

For me, following God’s leading is of primary importance. Doing something new or different just for the sake of doing things another way is not of any more value than doing everything the same always!

Please note that I am not talking about a changing standard for morality, marriage, sexuality, telling the truth, stealing, and so on - this is where I do believe that The Bible is quite clear as to what God wants.

What do you think? What have you done or seen for fellowship activities? What works? What doesn’t?


#3

What you say is true. To a point. From what the Lord Jesus said, it seems quite important “that they be one.” “They” is us! (John 17)

I am not totally equating our relationship with God with “social fellowship.” But “fellowship” - becoming one with fellow believers and functioning as His Body, His Bride, and so on, is something spiritual that He does in us. He sets us in the Body as He wills, and we are called to follow that leading. John chapters 14-17 are amazing, and Jesus prays that we all be one as He and the Father are one (17:21). Spiritual Christian fellowship is perhaps to be seen as deeply important as the relationship with God the Father, because they are so closely related. If we do not love one another, Jesus pretty clearly says that we cannot then love the Father!

In this question, I am sort of wondering about the forms, and perhaps it is just too vague and nebulous! Just thinking out loud, looking for others’ thoughts.


#6

I hope what I’m posting fits in this topic, forgive if it doesn’t Paul, It’s the same stick I think, I’m just coming from the other end. Most folk will respond as to how the group should be run, I’m coming from the fellowship that follows the group.
When “church” was over the kids, well over twenty under 35, shows how old I am, the young adults would go out side, crack a beer and lite up a joint. We would sit and talk about the meeting,answering any question they might have had. I thought nothing of this until I told others, some didn’t bat a eyelash others were totally appalled, just flabbergasted.
The leaders idea was, and I agree with him, these folks saw something in our lives, add to this the little nuggets of truth that we dropped on them during the week pricked there curiosity enough to have them come to find out about this Jesus guy. They are sinners, how do you expect them to act? Do you think if we got on our holy horses and told them that we didn’t approve of these actions and they will not be tolerated that they would ever come back? When Paul was in the market place of a wicked city did he yell at them " when you pagans get your act together come to my house so I can preach the love of God to you" sounds a little silly doesn’t it. We just loved on them,didn’t judge them and some came to the Lord and the others were, after a while, convicted by the Holy Spirit and without us saying a word they stopped.
So how does everyone handle the fellowship that follows fellowship. do you say “church is over,get out of my house,see you next week”, or do you take the time to allow them to be themselves as you minister to them after the meeting. I know all situations are different. We were out in the country so there were no neighbors to call the cops or to be able to say “that must be the church of the pot smokers” I do believe we are to present ourselves in certain ways at certain times but where we were we didn’t have to concern ourselves with the opinions of others. Also there were no children around.
So whats everyone’s take on this. How do you handle fellowshiping with sinners that are seeking at your group.


#7

You might try checking out jesuslifetogether.com. they have been living act’s chap2. For some time.


#8

A way tamer version of what you shared: I was part of an IC when a Christian concert in the area produced a dozen or so new teenage converts; they were directed to our IC. They were all “rough” looking (which I loved) and after church they’d all hangout in front to the building smoking cigarettes. Nobody would talk to them directly but I did hear a few people bad mouthing them because of their appearance. One by one they stopped coming. When we were down to 6 I asked why they were leaving and they told me they felt like they didn’t fit with us. I prayed about it in this way, “What can I do to help those kids know that they aren’t alone?” I felt led to dye my hair purple (this was WAY back in the '80s) thinking that if they saw somebody more like them up on the platform with the worship team they’d feel more at home. I was kicked off the worship team as soon as I showed up with purple hair. My prayer was not answered the way I thought it would be. I believe the Lord was showing me that clearly they DIDN’T fit in. And that the answer to my prayer was that if I wanted those kids to feel like they weren’t alone then I wasn’t going to fit in either. Eventually only one remained but he came to my house every single day after school and quite literally (to my great discomfort) sat at my feet asking questions about the Lord until he went home for supper. In retrospect, I believe more “real church” was happening in my living room than in the church building.


#9

Yea, we didn’t have the whole neighborhood thing going on. You may never know the impact you made on their lives. Some plant, some water, some sow.

To bad about the worship team but back in the 80’s? I’m sure you were a site lol

Thanks for the feed back

Matthew


#10

Over the years I have broadened my idea of what “fellowship” with other Christ-followers can look like, not just from my own experiences but from what I see in the New Testament. Jesus himself fellowshipped in many different ways and settings…over an intimate meal in someone’s home, on a hillside with a large crowd, in a synagogue while reading from the Scriptures, or walking on the road with a couple of guys. These are just a few examples.

While Christian fellowship should always be Spirit-led and God-centered, I think it can be carried out in many different ways and that there isn’t necessarily a certain model to follow. Whatever honors God and builds up others in their faith can be considered a good model, whether gathering in someone’s home with a few friends to eat a bite and read the Bible together; or going to a park, sitting in the grass and singing along with a guitar accompanying, and then chatting about the Scriptures; or a one-on-one nature walk with someone, admiring the beauty of God’s creation and letting the conversation flow from there; or even an online conversation with folks from all over the world in a Christian chat room or other virtual environment.

The models for fellowship are almost limitless. :hugs:


#11

I try to think of a local ekklesia (church body) as a family. In a family there are various ways to fellowship. There are late night conversations, shopping trips, exercising together, taking walks, going on a day trip or vacation, lots of eating together, playing games, and so on. Most of this is informal. It naturally happens as part of life together. Some of it is planned out in advance, such as taking a trip or finding a time to have a family dinner together (especially as kids get older).

Honestly, I don’t really understand the debate about whether a group of believers should meet together. It’s like a new 11th commandment: Thou shalt not meet!

I understand that most people who are unchurching don’t want to meet as the IC does. But that doesn’t mean giving up on meetings all together. The issue I’ve seen is that very few Christians have experienced a Jesus-centered, Jesus-led gathering, so many assume a negative connotation towards meetings.

I don’t think there is a model or blueprint for fellowship in the NT. How could we ever regulate relationships this way? But there are patterns given to us. When you meet, everyone should have…

Of course, we don’t restrict it to the list Paul gives. But we see the underlying principle. Everyone participates. It says in Ephesians that our participation is to encourage and build up the body in Christ.

So when we are together, we can encourage each other in who we are in Christ, who He is as a Person, talk about the beauty of Jesus and what He has done and is doing for us. I’ve actually found people are more likely to live for Jesus this way than if we give them rules and do’s and don’ts. Inspire each other with the magnificence of Jesus.

Practice the 58 or so “one another’s” throughout the NT. Again, not as any obligation, but as the opportunity arises in our relationships.

The only true model I know of is the Father, Son and Spirit. Together they model self-sacrificing love, the greatest and deepest love in the universe.

So the model is this: lay down your life (your preferences, desire, schedule, needs, comfort) for your brothers and sisters. Fulfill the law of love and thereby satisfy all the law.

If you follow this model you will always have fellowship with others.


#12

The question “is there a model” leads us into a paradigm of corporate options based on one preference or another of “best practices” claimed by one expert or another. Jesus gives us instructions to follow his example. He is our model. We are to grow up to the image of Christ. As jmlake42 has said, there are 58 “one another” instructions that are very specific. These two words declare the intimacy and mutuality qualities of our “meeting together”, in what every way we meet. Calling a meeting “informal” or “formal” is not really helpful except to falsely compartmentalize things as is common in institutionalized thinking. “Meeting together”, whether it be face to face, for 5 minutes to all day long, 2 people to more, the instructions are clear to designate “one another” quality meeting. There are no one way communication by one man instructions unless you twist:

  1. “preach the word” into lecture the word
  2. “equipping the saints” into lecturing the saints
  3. “proclaiming the whole counsel of God” into lecturing every verse every week of your life
  4. “feed my sheep” into lecture my sheep
    All hired Bible experts agree to these things. I’m not a sucker for it.

Fellowship, communion, sharing of hearts, intimacy and mutuality are all developed dynamic. You don’t just turn it off and turn it on with instant success. For some it is a deep struggle. For others it seems easy. Children can be powered by God to do all these instructions. I have seen them do it. New believers can do this.

My favorite scripture for “meeting together” is Hebrews 10:24,2
And let US (all of us) consider how to stir up ONE ANOTHER to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to MEET TOGETHER, as is the habit of some, but encouraging ONE ANOTHER, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

This instruction flows from “the new and living way” that Jesus “opened up for us” with “his blood”. This “let us” instruction is the third. The previous two “let us” instructions prepare us for “let us consider how we can…” These 3 “let us” instructions prepare us for “meeting together”. “Meeting together” requires specific preparations of heart and soul.
19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus,
20 by THE NEW AND LIVING WAY that he opened for US through the curtain, that is, through his flesh,
21 and since we have a great priests who over the house of God,
22 LET US DRAW NEAR with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
23 LET US HOLD FAST the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful.
24 AND LET US CONSIDER HOW to stir up ONE ANOTHER to LOVE AND GOOD WORKS,
25 not neglecting to MEET TOGETHER, as is the habit of some, but encouraging ONE ANOTHER, and ALL THE MORE as you see the Day drawing near.

These are not options to pick and choose from.
There is only one source of these instructions.
There is only one Lord in this relationship.
Our understanding and obedience will always be expanding.
Our flesh and Satan are will fight on every point. “Hold fast…God is faithful”
Let us “consider how we can” move forward on this journey with Jesus and his people.


#13

I have been researching how the early believers meant and I found it was in community. Community in which they had all things in common. They were all filled with the God’s Love and had muticial love for one another.

I looked how the the Bedouin tribes that were very similar to the early Jewish communities, and are still around today. I have learned that the main focus of the tribe is the perseverance of the community, not the individual. Things are done to serve the community not the individual.

Within the community there are men who function in different areas. One man is the attributor, he settles disputes. Another is the sage, interprets dreams and other religious matters. Yet another would be the ambassador of the community to other communities (wars, treaties).

But when there is no dispute to be settled the attributor is just another member of the community. There is no hierarchy in the community, only different functions

The community dies when instead of a circle of community, we adopt pyramid of hierarchy


#14

Among those who have left the IC, there seems to be a commonality of experience. To coin a current phrase from contemporary culture, we all got “woke;” Like Neo in the Matrix, we began to realize that something was wrong and began to trace that cord back to the wall. Was the institutional model we were participating in even Biblical? In worse cases, we were absolutely brutalized by the institutional church and by God’s grace were able to see past that experience to the real Christ they were supposedly representing. We held on to Him and rejected anything that smacked of the institution.

Unfortunately, many of our first experiences in the aftermath were with “House Churches.” Some of these were filled with bitter refugees from the IC with nothing more creative to do than grind their axes ad nauseum about the IC’s failures and how deluded their remaining attendants remain. Most were nothing more than a “new and improved” IC; essentially, functioning out of a home instead of a church building. Maybe positive steps like dispensing with a hierarchy had been taken, but gatherings were still driven by the belief that the fundamental expression of Christianity is a service or a meeting with an agenda which must tick all the right boxes: teaching, prayer, worship, bible-study, operation of giftings, etc. We forgot that “Man was not made for the Sabbath, but the Sabbath for man.” These things—all right and good in and of themselves—were never meant to be action items on a meeting agenda. They were meant to serve relational community organically, as the need arose. Failing to recognize this, every “new” model we concocted or participated in had the same results: same old wineskin, same old wine. As U2’s Bono put it “I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” Nevertheless, believing it is “better to light a candle than curse the darkness;” we left those groups, hungrier than ever for “Christian Community,” and bewildered as ever as to what that could/should/might look like. It is in this place that I find most of the non-ICers I know across the country still wandering.

I do think an answer is slowly but surely emerging, and it is rooted in a scripture so fundamental we have ignored it at worst or taken it for granted at best: “Everyone will know you are my disciples if you LOVE ONE ANOTHER.” Christianity, as such, has no other motivation for gathering together than love for one another, and no other model than to create a context (time and space) for learning (as disciples) how to love each other which such excellence that the world recognizes Jesus in us. A great place to start-and not without some precedent in Scripture, is sharing meals…NOT as an add-on to the larger agenda, but as the centerpiece. And at this point, I defer to the outstanding post by jmlake42 who says everything else better than I can.

I do leave with one final admonition: Such a model sounds wonderful but is meaningless if it remains sentimental. Let us remember that the life of Christian Relational/Ethical Exceptionalism (I hope to do a separate post on this topic later) in which we find the kind of ideal community/fellowship which Jesus Himself has called us to, is personally costly. It is utterly incompatible with the American dream and lifestyle. It cannot be achieved as an addition to an already overcrowded list of competing priorities. Relationships as Christ intended need to be the “pearl of great price” and “the treasure hidden in the field.”


#15

Normally whenever someone talks about the Trinity of God they represent it by showing a triangle that had the Father at the top with the Son and the Spirit in the lower positions. This creates the appearance of a hierarchy, with the Father as primary with the Son and Spirit as subservient to Him. This example has been used a justification for the hierarchical structure of the institutional church.

Instead of a triangle, what if we used a circle to represent the Trinity of God? Than we don’t have hierarchy, we have the Community of God. The circle conveys the relationship that exist between God and us. Where fellowship and mutual Love flowing around and throughout this Community. We see the essence of this community expressed in different and unique ways that we call Father, Son, and Spirit. We may experience Him in different ways, but God is One.

To get a better understanding of how the early Jewish community of Jesus’s time. I have been studying the Arabian Bedouin tribes / communities that were around then and are still around today. I have learned that the main focus is the perseverance of the community, not the individual. Things are done to benefit the community not the individual.

Within the community there are men who have leadership roles in different areas. One man is the attributor who he settles disputes. Another is the religious who interprets dreams and other spiritual matters. Yet another would be the ambassador for the community to other communities (wars, treaties).

When there is no dispute to be settled the attributor, no dreams to be interpreted, or no treaties to be signed then these men function as just another member of the community. There is no permanent hierarchy, within the community.

Jesus came to reconcile to the Community of God’s Love. He even supplied the Love. He said I am the way, the entrance into the Community. It was not who He was but what He was doing that was the way. He loved those He came into contact with (washing the feet of Judas before he betrayed Him), and, yes, He was loving the religious ones by speaking harshly to them. Ask any parent.

People talk about wanting to meet like the early church, but they are looking for a fixed structure, set of rules, and a hierarchy. They miss the point that a community / a body is not stagnant, but is alive. The body does not have rigid laws that promote one part over another. The body has order and structure which is for the benefit of the whole body (community), they are in a constant state of flux. When you hungry, tried, or sick the rules for the body change. It is the flowing of the blood that provides life to the body is the same as the Love flowing within the Community of God.

Ephesians 4 is a much abused section of scripture, with many of the words or phrases left out to shape the desired message. Why were some given the gift of Pastor or Teacher? For profit? For $7 million dollar homes? For $70 million dollar jet?

They have left out verses 17 – 20

So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.

They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts

Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed.

That, however, is not the way of life you learned

These gifts were given not to benefit the induvial but to benefit the body, to the building up of the body. Verse 15 is a key “ speaking the truth in love ”, the community lives by the flowing of love between members. There is no hierarchy in the body, the community.

At the end of Acts 2, you have

Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved .

Too many think that work and strive to add to the Community of God, but our responsibility to just demonstration the Love of God and let Him do the rest.


#16

Something interesting I came across today is how Holacracy is being used to ‘organise’ church. I am hesitant to get excited, but I have been following the implementation of self-management in organisations for many years.

Have a look at the following article: