Fellowship

Fellowship: (n.) A community of believers (adj.) Describing a location where believers meet to chat (Example: fellowship hall) (v.) Getting to know other Christians, usually within the context of church meeting or program. (Example: After dinner, we’ll have a short time of fellowship.)

It was where they always set up the buffet table for potlucks. Someone arranged pods of folding chairs, and we sat, stirring our ice cream and Hershey’s syrup into cold, chocolate soup. We were getting buzzed on the sugar, bouncing like pinballs from person to person in the Fellowship Hall, catching bits of conversation here and there but never attaching to it.

Then, later, it was a makeshift coffee shop set up in the back of the gym where we had youth group. Three folding tables arranged like a counter. Lattes and cappuccinos and little packets of hot cocoa powder and white Styrofoam cups.

There was a fluorescent sign: Café Koinonia. In Greek, to share in a thing. Partnership. Fellowship. It was where we talked, where we flirted, where we made plans to take the train downtown to Moody Bookstore to meet Jennifer Knapp and the W’s.

When I left home for college and adulthood and new, unfamiliar churches, fellowship became, for me, awkward. Stilted. Instead of ice cream and happiness, it meant standing, shifting, waiting. An occasional flurry of small talk, and then silence again.

It is hard to merge into the pulsing culture of a church as a young adult. Particularly if you are a little bit jaded, a little guarded, a little hardened by life. The clapping, the raising of arms, the voices, the children running around – all of this is familiar, and yet also unfamiliar. It is easy to distance yourself. It is easy to think, You are not my people.

There are not that many fellowship halls in churches anymore. The word is fading away, not appealing to people in the way that it used to. Instead, you have Soul Cafés. Foyers. Welcome Centers.

But here is this old word. Fellowship. If we strip away the connotations and the baggage and the coffee, it means this: we belong to each other. It means that no matter how different we are, at our deepest heart, we are the same.

We are a million dots connected by one line: our wavering, unwavering, tentative, hopeful, failing, unfailing faith in Christ.

In the church foyer, they are talking about shooting some deer. They are talking about scrapbook embellishments and about their weekends at the cabin and about their grandchildren. They are wearing camo. They are wearing leggings. They are wearing t-shirts that say Jesus is Lord.

They are not my people. But also, they are my people.

We are in this together, our disparate hearts all desperate for one true thing.

  • http://www.simplelivinginc.net Neal Brower

    The “F” word…
    My frustration centers on the relational and the missional. Biblically, fellowship is experienced in common purpose and persecution. A good summary is: “sharing in the sufferings” that are part and parcel of what it means to be sold out, to dying daily, to being like Jesus (who was born to die). It isn’t “niceness” whether in church-basement-conversation-donut-in-hand or in a Starbucks wanna-be corner of the church building called “Holy Grounds.” Or, for that matter, in a small group chit-chat session, as real as it may be. Fellowship is all about the mission of the church, and there are no better relationships than those formed in a shared intention on one purpose…people finding Jesus…for real.

  • Kevin Conklin

    Koininia to me was conversation that went beyond chit chat and of course way past gossip. It was being together as it say’s in Romans “weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who rejoice.” Fellowship takes time, it’s not something you can do all of a sudden but it does start somewhere. That all gym brought back memories of what we were trying to do and for some did, create a place where students could help each other love God more and the spill out/overflow would be reaching out to others. Thanks for your writings.

  • http://www.simplelivinginc.net Neal Brower

    I’ve got an idea. Let’s call conversation, conversation. Small talk, small talk. Even living out the “one anothers” what they are. But biblical fellowship is all about dying together on mission. Suffering for the sake of the furtherance of the gospel…that’s biblical fellowship. Eating Jesus’ body and drinking His blood together as a means of desperate survival and intentional pressing on into enemy territory and taking it back by force, risking our lives in the process. Taking up our cross daily and following. Now that’s fellowship.

  • Patrick

    My first memories of fellowship were of small groups gathered in pews after Sunday service was over, bibles in hand, speaking in serious tones about some passage of Scripture. Sometimes the fellowship was one on one: two believers encouraging, admonishing each other in the name of Christ. Over time, in another church, fellowship became my wife and I sitting at a table full of people, not speaking or being part of any conversations. Conversations that typically consisted of deer hunting, football games,kids, grandkids, godless Democrats, whatever. Feeling truly ignored.
    Fellowship can be painful sometimes.

    • Addie Zierman

      “Fellowship can be painful somethings.” Yes. I’ve been at the same coffee circle, feeling totally ignored too. Sometimes the most awkward part of church…hoping someone will talk to you, and when no one does, making a quick dash for the parking lot.