The second chapter of the book of Acts gives us a glimpse into the life of the early church. After the ascension of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:9), the pouring out of the Holy Spirit on the followers of Christ (Joel 2:28; Acts 2:4), and the conversion of many new believers (Acts 2:41), we are told that the new community of faith “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 ESV). Furthermore, they “had all things in common… as any had need” (Acts 2:44-45 ESV).
As the early church devoted itself to the apostles’ teaching—the good news of Christ and the application of that good news to Christian living—the church was simultaneously encouraged by that same teaching (the gospel) toward devoted fellowship with one another. In other words, the gospel of Jesus Christ served as a motive for genuine and faithful communion and companionship within the community of faith. Why? Because it’s the gospel that unites us to Christ and to one another (Ephesians 4:3-6).
If you’ve been a Christian long enough, you know firsthand the rich value of fellowship with other Christians. It’s together with other Christians that we’re often encouraged and pointed toward Christ. It’s the warm fellowship of other believers that gives us a community to rejoice with and cry with. The Lord uses friendship ministry to bring comfort into our hearts when we’re hurting or suffering. And when we’re drifting from the Lord, it’s that same friendship ministry that the Spirit of Christ often uses to draw us back.
Fellowship is essential to the Christian faith.
During this COVID-19 pandemic, fellowship is probably one of the things you’ve most missed in your experience of church life. Whether you’re a part of a large church that cannot logistically gather just yet, or whether you’re part of a small church that only sees a fraction of its members in attendance, or whether you’re playing it safe and staying home altogether, you are probably hungry for fellowship.
And that’s a good thing. It lets you know something is wrong with the status of current affairs. Lack of fellowship is not normal!
So if you’re like many other Christians hungry for community with other saints, here are three simple things you could do to fill your need for fellowship at a time when fellowship is on short supply.
Break Bread Together
In Acts 2:42-45, the first example of fellowship is the breaking of bread. This brings to mind the remembrance of Christ through the consumption of the elements in communion (the Lord’s Supper), but this also includes shared meals.
Of the physical things we could do together, perhaps nothing else quite bonds us like the sharing of meals. Eating together breeds friendship and togetherness. We naturally bond over dining tables, bistro tables, and coffee tables. And when those tables aren’t available to us because of the pandemic, a large picnic blanket in an outdoor field makes for a perfect fellowship experience that also allows for safe social distancing.
Christians have been breaking bread together for over two millennia. Even in the face of sufferings and persecutions, God’s people have always found a way to safely break bread together. Get creative, and be encouraged to find a way to safely break bread with another believer soon. We need fellowship.
The next example of fellowship in Acts 2:42-45 is prayer. Of course, prayer can be done in solitude. It’s even encouraged by Jesus in his Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:6). But the glimpse we get of the early church in Acts 2 is that of prayer done within the fellowship of believers.
There is something special about God’s people praying together, petitioning the Lord together, and giving thanks together. It’s not only an expression of fellowship, it’s also an expression of our joint dependence on God. And if persecuted Christians across church history have always found ways to pray together in hiding, let’s be encouraged to find ways to pray together in the midst of this pandemic.
Grab a phone. Facetime together. Host a Zoom meeting. Use the various tools at your disposal to check in on each other. We have so many options at our fingertips to fellowship with fellow followers of Christ through prayer. Not only because prayer itself is vital to Christian living, but also because fellowship is just as vital. We need fellowship.
Share Material Goods
The final example of fellowship in Acts 2:42-45 is the sharing of material goods, as any has need. This is a natural byproduct of the friendship ministry we experience over shared meals and prayer—we naturally learn of each other’s needs.
As you find ways to share meals or pray—or both—be on the lookout for your brother’s needs. Listen for your sister’s hardship. Yes, petition the Lord together, and continue praying for your fellow believer on your own. And if you are able, help your fellow saint (1 John 3:16-18).
This sharing of material goods is not only an expression of fellowship, it’s also a beautiful expression of Christlike love. It’s the Christian’s response to the the lavish generosity of God in taking care of our greatest need through Christ. It reflects what God has done for us in giving us Jesus. Let this glorious gospel of Jesus Christ encourage you: As you’re able, fellowship with others through your own generosity. There will be times others will fellowship with you through their own generosity. But either way, allow generosity to draw you closer to your fellow Christians. We need fellowship.
There is no doubt in my mind that fellowship is absolutely essential to our Christian living. My dear Christian friend: Don’t let current circumstances distance you from your community of believers. Find ways to fellowship. But also, seek wisdom.
We are living in times when God’s people must wisely pursue fellowship with safety and submission to governmental authorities (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:12-17). The pandemic makes things less than ideal. Yet so does persecution and various kinds of sufferings, but we’re part of a long lineage of Christians fellowshipping in all wisdom in the face of troubling times.
Break bread together. Pray together. Share material goods. But do these things in wisdom. Ask the Lord for wisdom (James 1:5). Stay safe. Keep others safe. Reflect the humble submission of Christ on the cross to your own authorities. And with the Spirit’s wisdom, enjoy the family of God.
We need fellowship.