Most churches have “fellowships”. No, it has nothing to do with Lord of the Rings. It’s the Christian term for “hanging out”. Some churches have fellowships weekly, monthly, quarterly. Everyone gets together, brings some food, and they sit around and talk while the kids play hide and go seek in the church building.
As time goes on, people make their way from group to group and hop in on different conversations as previous conversations become uninteresting. As people leave, everyone smiles and wave goodbye, and the church leadership congratulate themselves for another successful fulfillment of Acts 2:42 (they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.).
However, in the grand sceme of things, very little was accomplished. No one knew Jenny had an unexpected bill that she’s struggling to pay. Or Dean who is struggling with how to be a strong spiritual leader in his home. And certainly no one knows that Susan just lost her virginity last night. People don’t talk about that, fellowships are happy times. Besides, between people popping in and out of conversations, no one asking Susan insightful questions about her life, and Dean not feeling comfortable posing his question to 12 other people, nothing is ever said.
People criticize Facebook for being the essence of fake friendships. Really, these church fellowships have been relegated to nothing more than Facebook relationships. Browsing status updates, being entertained by funny quotes and pictures, and then moving on to the next profile page. Sorry, but that’s not true fellowship. That’s not living life out with the body. Those aren’t quality relationships.
Did you know most people can only maintain 6–8 close relationships. Yet we hang out with 70, 150, 1000 people at these fellowships and walk away thinking a very special relational bonding occurred. It’s ok if you don’t talk to everyone in your church. That doesn’t mean you have any less community. Trying to talk to everyone and maintain some connection only takes away time from delving deeper into a few lives.
So what does true fellowship look like? Well I call it authentic community, and it happens every day. People calling each other, going out to watch a football game, seeing a movie, coming over for dinner, working on a hobby. It’s people living regular life…together.