The other day I posted this and asked for your views on fellowship and community.
Today I offer my thoughts on the subject
Community implies being part of something without having to really ‘get involved’ and participate fully. For instance I live in a community but I don’t have to do anything to be part of it other than simply live where I live. I don’t have to attend meetings, get involved with the committees, join the PTA etc yet I’m still part of the community. There are a lot of people living in my community who I haven’t met and probably wont because we simply have no need to in our daily lives. We happily go about our business, say G’day when required and leave it at that.
Fellowship implies something deeper. It implies that conscious action is required in order to be in fellowship with someone else. For example in The Lord of the Rings the “Fellowship of the Ring” swear to work together for a common cause, to travel together, fight together and ultimately to reach the goal for which they were formed. They all agreed to live and act a certain way despite their very different backgrounds.
So for me, fellowship means that we are working together to achieve the same purpose, pooling our collective resources to learn from each other, rely on each other and to help each other succeed. Unlike community if we are inactive then we’re not in true fellowship because fellowship is “moving” somewhere, it’s headed in a certain direction, aiming to achieve a common purpose or goal.
Within the church context I think we may misuse these terms. In it’s simplest form we use community to describe those “out there”, those not part of our church and fellowship to describe those “in here”, us, inside the church, that meet on Sundays and worship together.
Technically and based on my definitions above I think this is correct. The church is a gathering of people who have come together for a common purpose, to rely on each other, learn and grow together and succeed. We ‘fellowship’ together at our Sunday service because we are there for a common goal, we sing together learn together, take communion together, pray together etc. In theory this is true, but in reality we may have to concede that maybe our ‘gatherings’ are more like community than fellowship.
I think simply gathering on a Sunday for a worship service isn’t real fellowship, it’s more like community. If we don’t stop and take the time to go deeper with people and with God before, during or after the service then I think we can liken the experience to a sporting match. We all gather at a certain place at a certain time with lots of other people. We know roughly what to expect, how long it’s going to take and what the process is for participating. We keep to ourselves or the group we ‘came with’ being polite to those near us but not going deeper than surface level.
For me the key is intentionality. Fellowship must be intentional, driven, focused and with purpose. True fellowship requires us to delve below the surface to make ourselves vulnerable and open to others, to give of ourselves in order to meet another’s need and lets be honest this is often uncomfortable and why we find it so hard to do.
So let’s not confuse fellowship with community. Let’s be intentional in our actions, services, ministries, work, etc so that we may build deeper relationships with others and minister Jesus to them.