Yesterday, as we said good bye to some very good friends and faithful members, I thought about the different levels of fellowship. The Greek word for fellowship is koinonia which means the share which one has in anything, participation, community. In places the word communion is used for koinonia. The dictionary defines communion as the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings, especially when the exchange is on a mental or spiritual level. While it is true that any two people, lost or saved, could potentially have fellowship, it has a special meaning in the Body of Christ.
1. The fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 1:9)
In the Body of Christ, our fellowship begins with a relationship with Jesus. This is personal and can’t be conjured up or fabricated; it only comes when you invite him in to your heart and begin a personal relationship with the Son of God.
2. We have fellowship one with another (1 John 1:7)
As brothers and sister in the Lord, we have fellowship with one another. By definition to fellowship you must first have something in common. For believers this fellowship is centered around our fellowship with Jesus Christ. As soon as the Church was born on the day of Pentecost, it was noted that the followers of Jesus “continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42). Here in Acts 2, we find four basic pillars of the Church: studying the scriptures, fellowship, breaking bread together, and prayer. In Acts 2:47, we pick up the fifth pillar of the church, “praising God” or worship. In church, we often assume that fellowship is the same as breaking bread together, but it is not one and the same. Don’t get me wrong, believers really do enjoy fellowship dinners at church, but fellowship is deeper. I have seen fellowship, or exchanging that which you have in common, during a meal, but I have often seen it occur after a church service with no food involved. At times I have seen it occur so strongly that I could not get the people to leave. In fact, if we read 1 John 1:7 in its entirety we find that fellowship is a must for Christians. The verse says, “If we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we HAVE FELLOWSHIP one with another.”
3. Fellowship of the ministering to the saints (2 Cor. 8:4)
This level of fellowship is one that you obtain with those you serve with. The fellowship with one another is great, but the fellowship with those you serve in ministry with is far greater. There are things you can talk to partners in ministry that those outside know nothing about. There is bond that develops that is not easily broken. You may have heard it referred to as being “in the trenches” with someone. Walls begin to fall in service that normally don’t budge. Many of us have been raised in our respected communities and may have had very little interaction with people of other ethnic backgrounds, but if you work with someone long enough and close enough, you forget what color they are and only consider them as a fellow-worker. You begin to think like the old song says, “He ain’t heavy; he’s my brother.” I recently learned that the beginnings of the civil rights movement could be traced back to 1948 when the military dropped all racial distinctions. Colin Powell said that when he entered the U.S. Army during that time period, they told him they didn’t care what color he was, and they didn’t want to hear any hard luck stories. All they wanted him to do was to do his best and work hard. He later became the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reporting to the president and then the Secretary of State. I would say he did right well.
4. Fellowship of his sufferings (Phil 3:10)
Thankfully, most of us know very little about this one, but it is obviously a higher level than all the rest. I like to watch soldiers that served together in combat talk among themselves. Even though I can’t share with them in that level of fellowship, you can sense that they have developed bonds that are seldom ever broken. It has often been said soldiers become brothers in the truest sense when the “shed blood together.” Even in the deeply segregated south, when finally our soldiers came home from the long drawn out Vietnam War, I will never forget something my cousin said. He was wounded by an explosion and couldn’t walk. A black soldier picked him up and carried him to safety through enemy fire. I was too young to know if my cousin was ever racist or not, but one thing I do know is that he wasn’t racist when he got on U.S. soil. He commented that all he saw was a fellow soldier who saved his life!
I can truly say that not only did we at Faith Harvest enjoy fellowship as believers in Christ with Minister Ed and Moma Deborah, but most of us shared with them in the fellowship of the ministering of the saints. During our years of service together, we developed bonds with them so much so that it does not seem is if they are leaving, but rather that our family is extending to another state to carry on God’s work there. They both were so much help to Pastor Martha and I during all the transitions that our church went through last year, I think I would be accurate in saying that we did share in his sufferings together (the fourth level) at least to some degree. We will certainly miss them, but we know that we will see them again soon!
Thanks for your many years of service,