Have you ever been frustrated with the progress of your spiritual growth? It feels as if no matter how much you read the Word, pray, attend church…you feel like you’re stagnant and not growing in your faith and love for Christ? You may even feel as if you are drifting away instead of getting closer to Him.
As a pastor’s wife, women often ask me what they can do to grow spiritually, to cultivate a more personal and intimate relationship with the Lord. Depending on where that person is spiritually, will determine the type of advice I would give them; from simply beginning with prayer, to studying the Word more. Yet, there is one piece of advice that may seem unimportant or not “spiritual” enough, that I honestly think is the most overlooked cause of our stagnant spiritual growth.
So, what’s the advice that can help us grow spiritually by leaps and bounds? One word, FELLOWSHIP. You may be thinking, you can’t be serious, but please hear me out. Let’s uncover what true fellowship means.
Oftentimes when we think of fellowship, we think of eating, laughing, having good conversation, and enjoying the company of others. However, biblical fellowship has a much deeper meaning and value.“Fellowship may be the missing link to your spiritual growth. Click To Tweet
Here are three truths about biblical fellowship:
#1- Fellowship is between believers only.
The foundation of which fellowship is built upon, is the blood of Christ. Therefore, we must be born again to have true fellowship with each other.
“what we have seen and heard we also declare to you, so that you may have fellowship along with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” 1 John 1:3
‘but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” 1 John 1:7
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” Acts 2:41-42
#2- Fellowship is required of all believers.
Many people believe that church and fellowship is optional, unimportant, and has no bearing or impact on our salvation. Truly, salvation is not determined by our attendance to church or fellowship with believers, for there are many who attend church, who are not saved. However, all throughout the New Testament, believers were found in the church, fellowshipping with other believers.
“so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it. Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it” 1 Corinthians 12:25-27
“and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near” Hebrews 10:24-25
There is nothing in Scripture that supports the idea of professing Christians avoiding church and fellowship. In fact, in Hebrews10:25, the believers at that time were facing terrible persecution, yet they were told NOT to forsake the fellowship at church. Are there legitimate reasons to miss church? Absolutely. However, the general principle as dictated by Scripture, is that believers are to go (not simply watch the service on-line, listen to sermon podcasts, or read a Scripture post on social media) to church and fellowship with their sisters and brothers in Christ.
“Bear one another’s burden, and thereby fulfill the law of Christ” Galatians 6:2
“Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others” Philippians 2:3-4To forsake church and fellowship is an act of selfishness. Click To Tweet
To forsake church and fellowship, is an act of selfishness because we rob our sisters and brothers of receiving our encouragement, prayer, and support. If we’re not a member of a local church and/or are not actively participating in fellowship (not leaving once the sermon is over), we can’t serve each other, help meet anyone’s needs, etc. In addition, we disobey the clear teaching of Scripture.
#3- Fellowship has rewards.
There are so many spiritual (and physical) benefits that we reap when we fellowship with believers.
Here are eight benefits of fellowship.
1- Encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11,14; Romans 1:12)
2- Strengthened (1 Thessalonians 3:2)
3- Comfort (1 Thessalonians 4:18; 2 Corinthians 7:6-7)
4- Help/Support for Our Physical Needs (Acts 2:45)
5- Deliverance from bondage of sin (Galatians 6:1-2; Matthew 18:15-18)
6- Accountability (Proverbs 27:17)
7- Spiritual Growth/Endurance (Hebrews 10:24; 1 Thessalonians 5:11; Ephesians 4:15)
8- Wisdom ( Colossians 3:16; Proverbs 13:20; Titus 2:3-5)
The Lord uses the Word AND people/believers to help us grow spiritually and to live spirit-filled lives. We are not to be lone-ranger Christians, but rather called to the intimate fellowship with believers (both in and outside our local church).
Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer on fellowship…
“One who wants fellowship without solitude plunges into the void of words and feelings, and the one who seeks solitude without fellowship perishes in the abyss of vanity, self-infatuation and despair”
Pastor John MacArthur on fellowship…
“Sin prefers to have you alone. The more often you are removed from Christian fellowship, the more tempted you will be”
According to Open Doors USA, North Korea is the worst place to be a Christian, and for the last 14 years has ranked #1 on the Open Doors World Watch List of countries of persecution. Yet, our persecuted sisters and brothers understand the importance of fellowship.
“We would have to meet in the woods to have fellowship,” shared one believer. “But we were so thankful to have the time together and to grow together!” (quote from an article on opendoorsusa.org)
If we find ourselves not wanting to be bothered with other Christians, unwilling to serve and help our brethren, not wanting accountability of believers, harboring bitterness or hatred for a sister or brother in Christ, or prefer to hang out and do life with unbelievers, over believers, we ought to seriously evaluate our heart, and ask ourselves if we are truly a Christian.
“We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” 1 John 3:16-17
“If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has seen” 1 John 4:20
“Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?” 2 Corinthians 6:14-15
Our failure and/or refusal to fellowship with believers not only hinders our spiritual growth, but it affects the lives of fellow believers, and damages the image of church, the body of Christ.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” John 13:34-35
Now, let’s go and serve each other, pray for one another, and get involved in each other’s life. We are our sisters keeper.