Monday, November 29, 2010

It's Not Coffee Talk

Most every church has one: a large room or meeting place where you can get coffee between services, chat with friends, and occasionally eye a visitor nervously sipping their coffee or tea. Receptions and meals are often held in these rooms. Generally, what we call “Fellowship Hall” is usually a place for fleeting conversations and passing nods.

Or we’ll have small groups meetings in classrooms or homes and we’ll designate a time for “fellowship,” defined by post-Bible study activity consisting of refreshments, desserts and more light conversation.

We might need to find a better word or phrase like “social time.” The bible uses the words translated as “fellowship” to mean a very different kind of activity, situation or condition. There are some 15 references to words translated as fellowship in the New Testament; two in the Old Testament are translated as “fellowship” in the King James Version but not in newer translations like the New International Version.

All of these words and references define something far more serious than coffee talk.

Collectively, the references in Acts and the epistles of Paul and John cite fellowship as a communion, as a joining or partaking with.

It is a sharing that is service to fellow believers.

It is a sharing in the sufferings of Christ.

It is a sharing with the Father and the Son and the Spirit.

It is a partnership in the gospel.

It is both an action and a condition.

John proclaims what he has seen and heard so that “you may have fellowship with is,” and he’s not talking about dining together or a conversation over coffee.

To have it, we must “walk in the light and not darkness,” and it is a binding relationship, to the point that we cannot have fellowship with those who don’t believe. Fellowship is something just for us, and it’s special, serious and unique.

It is also something we hunger for. It is food and drink only in the sense of being the spiritual nourishment we need.

Fellowship may be more akin to what Jesus had with the “good thief” on the cross on Golgotha than anything we define it as today.

To see other posts on fellowship, please visit the One Word Blog Carnival over at Bridget Chumbley’s place. The links will be live at 9:30 central time tonight.

Photograph: Three Crosses by Barb Ver Sluis via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.


Michael said...

It is both an action and condition.

Glynn, I think you truly summed it up with that statement.

Maureen said...

Excellent approach to the topic, Glynn.

Cassandra Frear said...

So much happens over coffee at church. So much. We'd be amazed if we could see it all.

JofIndia said...

"to the point that we cannot have fellowship with those who don’t believe. Fellowship is something just for us"
That's where you lose me.
Jesus appears to have had more fellowship with Romans and Samaritans than many who thought themselves safe. "Not everyone who says Lord..." Matthew 7, 21.
"In as much as ye did it not .." Matthew 25, 45.
i wouldn't count on faith and fellowship alone, fellow seeker.

Anonymous said...

So many don't understand this, but the truth of this has to become more and more real to us. Thanks Glynn.

David Rupert said...

We have trivialized the community aspect and given it silly names. We almost have to force people to spend time together. Whatever happened to just "dropping by"?

L.L. Barkat said...

My little poetic mind is suddenly picturing a ship filled with us fellows. We are reading poetry and eating chocolate and drinking tea (etc. ) and it's fine sailing.

S. Etole said...

I know when I've had it ... and I know when it's been absent. There is no substitution for true fellowship.

Duane Scott said...

After reading that, I'm even more convinced I want to meet you at a coffee shop. It's good to be reading your blog again, Glynn!

Laura said...

I think about what Tim told me when we were at Laity Lodge--"so much happens over the kitchen table," he said. "I'm convinced it's the most important piece of furniture in the house."

We are united by many things, but I love the purposes you line out here, Glynn. Fellowship is about more than just being together. So very true.

God Mission Possible said...


Love your points about the true meaning of fellowship. So much can be "lost in translation" so to speak - but in reality, for the Christian, fellowship is first with our Savior Jesus Christ, and secondly with our brethren, our fellow believers. Holy Communion is a prime example of sharing in fellowship for the common good and edification. Thanks for a great post!

lynnmosher said...

Great points, Glynn! God must be using this topic. I wrote something similar to what you said...that fellowship is not only an action but an experience. I think I like your word *condition* better! Always love reading what you have to say. Blessings to you!

caryjo said...

Exactly correct! To be honest, I don't do so well in the "social" side... I'm plain old too serious much of the time. Stepping up to the plate and being blessed by others that do the same ... to me there's nothing more perfect before Heaven.

a joyful noise said...

Jesus was a friend to sinners, but the fellowship spirit to spirit was not there until they became believers. Social time was what Martha was preparing, but her sister, Mary sat at Jesus feet drinking in every word. This was intimacy beyond social grace.

richd said...

You're right--social time is good, but doesn't replace intimate, sacrificial relationship.

Anonymous said...

Fellowship is such an elemental part of worship. We almost overlook it sometimes.

Anne Lang Bundy said...

Glynn, I apologize for not making it to the comments sooner, after I caught this via Twitter. This is a discerning post, clearly stated, with such an incredibly important message.

As I've read this again, I am in awe of your words. You make me envious of the thief on the cross.

It's a privilege to know you, Glynn. I look forward to the day we meet.