“I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian” is something that I have heard many times. On the surface it seems kind of true, but in reality when you dig you find a deeper reason for this answer. Once, as a young believer I thought that the above statement was true. My thinking was “Yeah, going to church doesn’t save you, you can still have a relationship with Jesus, you don’t have to go to church for that.” And there is the problem, it is faulty thinking. The issue is that I equated church with a building rather than a group of people. Somehow I had all the answers and could fellowship with Jesus on my lonesome. The church is not a building; it is the people of God gathering. I have heard of churches in Africa that meet under a mango tree. There is a church in Port Vila in Vanuatu that is affiliated with the church I was a part of in Victoria that meets in the backyard of the pastor’s house. Church is anywhere where two or three are gathered in His name. It is true that we can fellowship with the Lord on our lonesome, but that is a time of prayer and devotion. However, there is a dynamic we miss when we are not in fellowship with other believers.
What does the Bible say on this subject? Is fellowship important for us from God’s perspective, or is it a manmade doctrine to ‘make’ people go to church? It is written in Hebrews 10:24-25 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.
We are to encourage each other to do good works, to show love, this requires fellowship. Paul then tells us that we should also encourage each other to meet, to fellowship, for the Lord is coming again and we don’t know when that will be. After all we will all be together in heaven so it’s a good time to get to know our brothers and sisters in Christ; you may be living next door to them in heaven! We read in Acts 2:42 And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. How can we devote ourselves to the apostles teaching by ourselves? While it is true that we can study the bible alone, listen to podcasts and sermons online by ourselves, when we are together, we can learn from one another, we can ask questions, we can have great conversations about what is being taught or spoken about. This dynamic cannot happen when we are not in fellowship with other believers. 1 John 1:3 That which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We need to have fellowship with one another because we are of His people; moreover, we get to hear the word proclaimed. Also in Psalm 55:14 We used to take sweet counsel together; within God’s house we walked in the throng. When we meet together we can encourage one another in our faith, we can pray for one another, share our joys, fears, success and failures together. These are only a few of the verses from the bible that talk about fellowship. If fellowship were not an important aspect to our faith then the Lord would not have included it in His word. God sees fellowship as important, so should we.
The poet John Donne (1572-1631) wrote that ‘no man is an island’ in a poem titled ‘Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and severall steps in my sicknes – Meditation XVII‘written in 1624
No man is an island entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less,
As well as if a promontory were,
As well as any manor of thy friends,
Or of thine own were. Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
It is true that we were not created to be ‘islands’, we were created for community. Firstly, with our God, and secondly with each other. Any person who remains by themselves will, in time, go insane. We have an intrinsic need to be in community, fellowship with others. As a church we have been isolated for approx. 3 months and are only now allowed to meet together this Sunday (21st June) again. Let us take this opportunity to not be an island but rather become a part of the main. Let us come together physically and virtually to share God’s grace with one another, to fellowship with other saints as we glorify the great and mighty King that we serve.
Hebrews 10:24-25 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.
Let this be the reason for us coming together, wherever that may be. In Christ our redeemer Ps Jeff