Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 21, 1960
NUMBER 49, PAGE 2-3b

The Meaning Of Bible Fellowship

Hoyt H. Houchen, Lufkin, Texas

The present day practice of erecting kitchens and recreational facilities in connection with meeting houses, the hiring of youth directors, and the establishment of church sponsored youth camps and ball teams indicate the "social" gospel that has infiltrated the brotherhood. The brethren who are promoting these activities are attempting to justify them on the basis of fellowship. Their failure lies in the fact that they do not understand what the fellowship is that is spoken of in the Bible. Before considering the word "fellowship" as to its meaning and use in the scriptures, the following examples are presented which illustrate the improper view of fellowship as held by many brethren.

"YOUTH RALLY PROGRAM. Friday, May 2, 8:309:30, Fellowship — Light refreshments. Plan now to attend the fellowship meeting next Sunday evening after services. The deacons and their wives will act as your hosts in the basement auditorium." (Bulletin, Whitney Hills church in Toledo, Ohio, April 20, 1958).

"COME TO THE PUPPET SHOW, ALL LADIES: Wednesday Noon, December 3, ALL MEN AND BOYS: Thursday Evening, 7:30 o'clock. The theme for these two important meetings is 'Forward through fellowship.' We want every member of this congregation to be present at one of these meetings, if possible. A special Fist Puppet Show is being planned as a part of the program.

"It is important that you be present. Fellowship Hall for both programs. Let's have 1,000 present for these meetings. Through this medium of fellowship we want to know more about each other as brothers and sisters in Christ also to know more about the work of the church." (Bulletin of Broadway Church of Christ, Lubbock, Texas.)

"ATTENTION YOUNG PEOPLE! Only six more days before our greased pig chase! Announcements have sent to all the congregations around and we should have a lot of visitors to help us run down our greasy pig. Some preachers too, perhaps. Don't forget to bring some old clothes. There will be a Weiner roast afterwards and if we have our tent up by this Saturday, perhaps we will be able to meet after supper and sing for a while before going home. Lots of fun and Christian fellowship for all! (Troy Tidings, Troy, N. C. and appeared in the church bulletin.)

"The Antioch Church Softball League, newly organized with nine teams this season, got off to a slow start at city park last night but the 'Saints' of the Church of Christ emerged with the debut victory 8-6 over Missionary Baptist in 11 innings." (From California Newspaper.)

"The annual summer encampment at Western Life Camp near Las Vegas, New Mexico, conducted by the Broadway Church of Christ, is scheduled for the first two weeks in August." (Bulletin, Broadway Church, Lubbock, Texas).

The above are only a few of the many examples of what is being promoted by churches of Christ. Twenty-five years ago, only the most radical liberal among us would have favored such church sponsored foolishness, and for the most part such would have only been found in the denominations. Now, such is the order of the day and so prominent has it become that it has been galvanized into the work of many congregations, being just as commonly practiced among us as in the denominations, and those of us who dare speak out against these projects are branded as "radicals," "narrow-minded," and "antis." While those of us who oppose these church sponsored activities are unable to see how a group of elders who have any iota or respect for the teaching of God's word could lead a congregation into these things, brethren are gullible enough to march along with it, unable to see what is wrong about it.

The word "fellowship" comes from two Greek words that are found in the New Testament. (1) Koinonos, a verb, which means "to become a partaker." The noun form of the word is koinonia and it means "fellowship, communion," (2) Metoche, which means "partnership, a holding with." (Definitions from Young's Analytical Concordance.) Summed up, fellowship is "a partaking a communion, a partnership." It means joint-participation.

As illustrations of the above definitions of fellowship, we learn from the New Testament that our fellowship is (1) with God (I Jno. 1:3); (2) with Christ (I Jno. 1:3); (3) with the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:1); (4) in preaching the gospel (Phil. 1:5); (5) in ministering to poor saints (2 Cor. 8:4); and (6) in giving (Phil. 4:15.) We are not to have fellowship with demons (I Cor. 10:20), or the unfruitful works of unrighteousness (Eph. 5:11), or with false teachings (Jno. 9:11). If a member of the church lends his encouragement in any way to these things or persons named in these passages, he is indicating that he is having fellowship with them, the very thing that the word of God condemns.

Fellowship, which is a communion or joint-participation, is clearly explained in I Jno. 1:7. Here John writes: "But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanseth us from all sin." If we do the will of God, then we and God have fellowship with each other. This is the meaning of the passage. If I do the will of God and you do the will of God, you and I are in fellowship with God. As a result, you and I are also in fellowship with each other.

From the foregoing we should be able to see what fellowship is of which the Bible speaks. It is not having coffee and doughnuts with someone or engaging in recreational activities of fun and frolic. The fellowship of which the Bible speaks is fellowship in spiritual matters. Christians throughout the world are in fellowship with God when they are walking in the light, doing God's will. This is what brings about fellowship among Christians. Bible fellowship is not obtained by engaging together in recreational activities of church sponsored youth camps, church kitchens, and "fellowship" halls. If fellowship is brought about by eating a physical meal with others, then fellowship could not be had until such was done. Brethren in different parts of the world could not have fellowship with each other until they sit down and eat a physical meal together. Please notice this. Paul tells us in I Cor. 5:9 that we are not to have company fornicators, not meaning the fornicators of this world, but if any man that is named a brother be a fornicator, we are not to have company with him, with such a one no, not to eat. If fellowship, then, is having a meal with another, then we are having fellowship with the fornicators of the world when we eat with them.

It is fine for Christians to eat together and enjoy the company of each other in private activities but church sponsored recreation, meals, and entertainment are not the business of the church and such is not the fellowship that is spoken of in the Bible. Let the church be the church.