Fellow-ship

The suffix ‘ship’ is from the Old English ‘scipe’ which is connected with ‘shape.’  Thus, fellowship, is a state of ‘friendship that has a certain profile as different groups of people attend in harmony. It means a group who has something in common, hence scholarship or craftsmanship.  In the French language it is ‘camaraderie,’ which is a good fellowship or the intimacy of friendship, and from the Latin ‘sodality’ or comrade.

It also means a community in which condolence or sympathy can be offered, hence a congregation of people who impart encouragement to each other. A ‘fellow’ is someone who has something in common with one – one’s peer or equal in a specified way.  In Middle English it is felawe, which from Old Norse felagi, is a ‘partner in goods,’ the common goods we have in the church is the gift of New Life and the gifts of the Holy Spirit. This union results in services described as ‘Holy Communion;’ people in concord holding a corporate vision and victory.

Someone asked me when I was the senior minister of HICC when I was going to mentor him, to which I replied: “we have a men’s meeting in HICC, and if you want to attend that, you’re welcome.” We sit around and talk about issues, asking pertinent questions and seeking answers. We fraternise as an association of brothers in friendly fellowship. It’s one of the benefits of church life; it’s one of the strengths of HICC – its fellowship at its highest.

One of the four[1] ‘ships’ of partnership in HICC is ‘fellowship.’  We don’t have laws, but we do have suggestions that will make life easier all round. Under God as a multinational church, it has achieved great unity, and as the Bible says where there is unity “God commands the blessing” (Psalm 133). It is something to be striven for, protected and enjoyed. To achieve such a great blessing, there are obviously some ground rules – more of a list of shopping points to be saved for special discounts on harmony!

Fortunately and essentially our main personal fellowship is vertical, “. . . And truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ,” (1 John 1:3) which then flows out horizontally with local church membership. If our upward relationship is pure, it will enhance our outreach at a human level. If we concentrate at living in the divine fellowship, and not forsake it, as Adam did in the garden, we’ll find it helps towards membership agreement. If congregations have the “Living Bread,” they’ll not “bite and devour one another “(Galatians 5:15) because they are satisfied, and such people are happy, but not stultified as some may mistakenly think.

Eugene Peterson aptly translates Romans – “Eventually, we’re all going to end up kneeling side by side in the place of judgement, facing God. Your critical and condescending ways aren’t going to improve your position there one bit. Read it for yourself in scripture . . . So tend to your knitting. You’ve got your hands full just taking care of your own life.” (The Message 14: 10 -13). In other words get on your pins and with your pins and forget controversial personalities; they only exist to catch attention.  Keeping ourselves right with God is about what most of us can do, and it’s only that fellowship that will contribute to “peace one earth, goodwill to man.”

We are not to confuse weakness with wickedness, for many Christians are not deliberately contentious, they are just human. If Adam and Eve, the perfect man and woman, couldn’t get their act together, what hope have we? Christian divorce is almost at the same level as the secular world, and with that the trend, there will, symptomatically, be the usual effect in our assemblies, because many divorcees marry a second comparable partner, with similar results!

Usually it is morally neutral issues that cause the problems in church life. In the New Testament the quarrel was about food and drink, and in modern churches, it could be the colour of the sanctuary walls! Insignificant issues that delay the outreach to the unsaved. People have nothing better to think about, so they play the minor and miss the major.

Fellowship in HICC is an exciting test as 40 nations assemble weekly to worship God, with different cultures; opinions and many are from different denominations, but underlying all this we have Sonship – which is salvation, and that makes God our common Father in an uncommon way. We also have oneness, which supersedes unity and soars into divine realms. Jesus said “I and my Father are one”[2] To be one we do not have to agree, but we do need to ride above differences, amicably.


[1] Sonship, worship, fellowship and stewardship.

2 John 10:30

 

 

 

 

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