Yesterday, I posted here on the cost of community, hospitality and fellowship. It’s important we understand what true fellowship, real community and genuine hospitality look like if we are to have any hope of actually pursuing them. But, having done that, it seems worth giving some reasons why community, hospitality and fellowship are vitally important (despite the cost to ourselves). So, here are a few:
Jesus commanded it
It’s always the natural place to start whenever we ask ourselves why we ought to do anything. Jesus commanded us to engage in fellowship, community and hospitality. In John 13:34f, he tells us the sign that we are truly believers is that we love one another as he loved us. Without spending time together, just as Jesus spent time with his disciples, we are going to struggle to do this. The Lord’s command should be reason enough for us to do this.
Jesus modelled it
Jesus did much of his ministry in homes over meals. He reaches out to unbelievers this way and he trained his disciples this way too. The Last Supper and the feeding of the 5000 is recorded in all four gospels, Jesus meal with Levi is found in all but John’s gospel and the feeding of the 4000 is in Matthew and Mark’s gospel. That’s four meals in thirteen passages. Add to that the meal at the houses of Pharisees (Luke 11:37-54 and 14:1-24), the meal with Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10), and the meal that followed Jesus’ resurrection appearance on the Emmaus Road (Luke 24:13-34). Even then, the list of meals is not complete. Nevertheless, it is clear that Jesus saw fellowship, hospitality and eating together as vital to ministry. If, as John says, we are to “walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6) that must include this form of fellowship and community.
The Early Church did it
We read in Acts 2:42-47 that the Early Church were devoted to fellowship and hospitality. The passage outlines precisely what their fellowship entailed: studying the word, praying together, eating together and spending time with one another in homes. Such hospitality and fellowship is pressed by Paul (Rom 12:13), Peter (1 Pet 4:8-9) and the writer of Hebrews (Heb 13:1-2) as well as being a central part of the criteria for church leadership (1 Tim 3:2; Ti 1:8).
It will make your joy complete
The apostle John speaks plenty about fellowship. In particular, his comments in 1 John 1:3-4 and 2 John 1:12 link our fellowship to our joy. In 2 John, the apostle is clear enough that his joy would be complete when he is able to physically spend some time with the people to whom he is writing. It doesn’t take much to note that his presence with them, engaging in real fellowship, will complete his joy in a way that a long-distance relationship simply can’t. In 1 John, his comments are even more surprising. He says “we are writing these things to you so that our joy may be complete” (my emphasis). Immediately prior to this comment, he says the reason they are proclaiming their message is “so that you too may have fellowship with us” (1 John 1:3). So, John’s joy will only be complete when he can truly enjoy the fellowship of these other believers. There is something special when we engage in true, genuine fellowship between believers.
It makes church discipline meaningful
It is an unfortunate fact of life that some people who profess belief will fall into sin. It is an even worse fact that some who profess faith within the church may not even be believers (cf. 2 Pet 2:1). Scripture tells us not to be surprised by such things but to be on our guard and swift to act when they become apparent. One such example of dealing with a serious disciplinary matter in the church is outlined in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul’s clear guidelines for dealing with believers in open sin (cf. 1 Cor 5:1-2 & 9-13) make absolutely no sense if we have not already pursued, and enacted, true fellowship like this. If we never spend time together, eat together or share life together Paul’s sanctions in 1 Corinthians 5 suddenly look totally toothless.
It will aid your growth
If Ephesians 4:11-16 is teaching anything, it is talking about how the church will grow its members. Principally, it is through the exercise of various gifts for the mutual upbuilding of the body. Certainly such cannot exist without a framework of fellowship and community. But, note also that Paul says as we speak “truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ”. Again, it is incredibly hard to grow together and to speak truth into one another’s lives without close fellowship and community. What opportunities are there to do this otherwise? Paul makes this same point in reverse in 2 Thessalonians 1:3 as does Peter in 2 Pet 1:5-8. There seems to be a symbiotic relationship between our love, and fellowship with, one another and our growth in faith. As the one increases, so does the other.