Drinking Deeply

Thursday, September 29, 2005 at 11:59 AM

Fellowship in Christ at Stanford, redux

Main Entry: 1fel·low·ship
Pronunciation: 'fe-l&-"ship, -lO-
Function: noun
1 : COMPANIONSHIP, COMPANY
2 a : community of interest, activity, feeling, or experience b : the state of being a fellow or associate
3 : a company of equals or friends : ASSOCIATION
4 : the quality or state of being comradely
5 obsolete : MEMBERSHIP, PARTNERSHIP

Merriam Webster Online

Phil. 1:3-6
3I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

What does it mean for us to be a fellowship? What does it mean for FiCS to be a fellowship? Much of this is from two sermons by Kent Hughes (KH) at College Church in Wheaton (9/11/05 and 9/18/05) and a little bit from Vincent Cheung's (VC) commentary on Philippians.

The word translated "partnership" (koinonia) is sometimes translated "fellowship" or "communion." Contemporary Christians often use the word to denote the friendly social interactions between believers, but this meaning is never found in Paul's writings. (VC)

Fellowship is not an ice cream social, but it is a mutual commitment to the Gospel (v. 4). Not cookies and cake, but a partnership. To have cookies and cake together is just Christians fellowshipping, not a Christian fellowship. (KH)

The fellowship that the Philippians enjoy with Paul are manifested in their common bond with God and His Gospel. We have fellowship only because we can have fellowship with God! That is only found through His Son, Jesus Christ. We can sometimes have a mutual goal for something else, but we should strive to make that rooted in Christ, and not in something outside of Him. Our fellowship is an echo of the Triune fellowship - Father, Son, Holy Spirit. Perfect communion, submission, sending, authority structure. (KH)

When we go from church to church looking for fellowship, we're looking for the wrong things. We don't need friends to belong, we need God to belong. Let us seek Christ, and not self! (KH)

This was what made Alaska so good in some regards. I had the blessing to live together, striving for one common goal: the Glory of God manifest to the children of Alaska. We lived together, prayed together, ate together. We didn't need to hang out that much (though those times were good as well), but it was our mutual longing for God and His glory. Now, I'll confess that I weakened that a great deal in my speaking up about the revival, but when we were united as a body of servants, it was great.

I'm not saying that fellowship isn't found in having fun, in movie nights, activities nights, and hangouts, but I'm saying that none of those signify fellowship. The mark of a fellowship is simply found in what we are a fellowship for/of: In this case, we are a Fellowship in Christ. Thus we can find fellowship at hangouts, but we only become a fellowship in Christ. This is what I believe so highly in the power and importance of preaching and meditating upon the Word. This preceeds everything. Prayer, worship, fellowship, evangelism, everything flows from the Word. We can't pray unless we know who we can pray to (the Father), who we can pray through (the Son), who we can pray from (Spirit). We can't worship unless we worship the one God, the only God. We cannot have fellowship unless we are seeking after the same thing: Christ. We can't evangelize unless we know who we're evangelizing people to. We can't do anything unless we know God.

For those who object, there is one simple question: What is in a Christian that isn't in a Mormon ? They have worship, they have evangelism, they have prayer, they have everything we have, except for the one thing that matters: adherance to God's Word.

For us as Christians, let us seek to become partners of the Gospel, that we would be a fellowship that supports and encourages the preaching and sharing of the Gospel. This isn't about having better rock music, more casual dress, puppet shows, or anything of the like, but it's about spreading and sharing God's Word.

Fellowship doesn't come from us having "fun" and "hanging out." Fellowship can of course occur at those places, and they are great situations where we can live out our faith in love and service to God, but it's the faith that makes it a fellowship. It's upon that which the grounds of true fellowship is established. Let us share what we are learning, singing to one another with spiritual psalms and hymns, let us dwell together in worship of our beautiful Triune God. Movies and food are great, but let them be sparking points where we can share our lives and Christ's love, not just gathering points where we enjoy ourselves.

What if we don't thirst for God's Word? What if we don't care for sermons as much? A few thoughts and practical solutions:
1) Seek out the Word preached! If God's Word is being preached faithfully and biblically, we can make a choice to be there or not. We can't learn to love God's Word preached if we never give it a chance to convict us and transform us! God's Word is a means by which God applies His convicting Spirit into our lives. I'm not saying that we should always be listening to sermons and messages every moment of our lives, because then we would never get anything done, but make some sacrifices sometimes! Yeah, Sunday morning is so valuable, especially with regards to doing homework and getting some sleep, but God's Word say that it itself is infinitely valuable!

2) Take notes! One thing that has helped me a great deal to remember what messages were about has been to take notes on main points, key phrases, good verses, and the like. I honestly could not pick out a single sermon I heard prior to spring my frosh year of college, but after that, I have most, if not all of them down in a notebook, and if you ask me about a passage that was spoken on, I think I can give a decent repeat of what was said about it.

I had the blessing to speak before the youth group of my home church over the summer. After I spoke, a number of people said they liked the message, but when I asked them what specifically, all of them (with one exception) said the intro was the best, actually, it's all that they heard. A great deal of this was my fault, because I cared too much about keeping my audience entertained, and so thus my intro was probably far more extravagant than it needed to be. But the one person who actually commented on my message had a pen and notebook in his hand.

3) Get some rest before. Our ministers spend hours preparing a message for us. Let us spend an hour preparing for him. Take an extra hour of sleep the night before Sunday. Take a nap in the afternoon if we've had a long night previous but have a meeting tonight.

4) Read knowledgable authors. There is nothing that leads us to worship more than to contemplate the magnificance of God's glory and beauty of His Grace. Of course, this is a little difficult without prior knowledge, but as we read and learn more, we are granted deeper discernment and a better understanding to rightly divide between truth and falsehood. A good commentary should lead us to worship as much as a good devotional, sometimes even more.

So let us seek fellowship. Not the fellowship that we profess in hanging out and having fun (not that those are unnecessary), but the fellowship we find in contemplating the divine, longing for the eternal, and becoming partners of the Gospel.

Consider the fellowship of the ring. Frodo and his buddies didn't hang out all the time (though I'm sure they had their share of enjoyment along the way), but they were commited to one thing: the destruction of evil, as represented by the ring.

We're not here to hang out all the time. We're not here for me. We're not here for you. We're here for God. And that's all that matters.

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Blogger Frank Martens said...

Dude, You are so on with this! Read 1 John 1 also!  

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