Scripture has much to say about fellowship among followers of Yeshua. Many people have construed passages such as Heb 10:24-25 and 1 Pet 2:5 to urge us to join a congregation. For centuries people have sought fellowship in church, seeking community, accountability, support and encouragement. However, currently there are multitudes of believers fleeing the established church setting. Why?
Scripture exhorts us to meet together, to support and encourage one another, to call one another to account and to be accountable to others, to bear one another’s burdens, and so on. While it is true that we need to do these things, it is not necessarily true that a church setting is the best environment to foster such activities. In fact, traditional church practices often hinder or discourage people from following Scripture’s mandates. Here are some examples of how we can lose focus in a church setting:
Focus shifts to a human agenda rather than the Holy Spirit’s agenda. We can get caught up in our programs and projects and lose sight of our true mission (John 3:6-8; Acts 8:39; 1 John 5:6; John 14:26). We fail to seek guidance daily from the Holy Spirit and draw away from our Father’s plan.
- Focus centers on the needs of the church entity while neglecting individual needs. Many times people come to service week after week heavily burdened with trials or sin and leave carrying the same burdens. Even if the congregation has an established order of service, does it also provide opportunities through small groups, prayer ministers, or some other means to assist individuals? Is there effective prayer for healing? Are demons expelled? (Matthew 10:7-14)
- Focus settles on certain truths to the exclusion of the rest of the truth. Is the emphasis on adhering to established doctrines or on learning more about YHVH and His will for us? (John 16:13)
- Focus turns inward with little or no outreach from the congregation. Do we reach out to those around us who do not yet know the joy of salvation in Yeshua? Do we help others in need or do we judge them? Do we have an exclusive “club” where we feel comfortable and outsiders remain outsiders? (Matt 25: 35-40; Mark 16:25; Rom. 10:14; Acts 1:8)
- There is strong temptation to settle into a comfort zone and stagnate. Spiritual growth becomes a threat. Change becomes an unwelcome challenge. (Eph 3:17-19; 2 Pet 3:18)
- The agenda of an established hierarchy replaces the agenda of the Holy Spirit. (Matt 15:3; Mark 7:3-9)
Recently, we have attended services where the congregations are working hard to address these shortcomings. Even within a worship service, there is room for the Holy Spirit to take over the meeting. Active outreach to the community is passionately pursued by the congregation. There are opportunities for people to seek individual prayer and support so that they do not carry burdens alone.
We need to broaden our definition of fellowship. There are numerous opportunities to have “church” daily. Tim Mather explains in his book, Escaping Church, that any time we share the good news with another, encourage or advise or pray for another, or have discussions about our faith with others, we are “doing church.”
There are other ways for congregations to restore what is missing that I will discuss in my next article. It is time to repair Messiah’s broken body. It is time for the bride to prepare herself to meet her Husband. It is time for us to have true fellowship with one another.