Unhealthy vs. Healthy Fellowship
In the past years, the question of fellowship has come up more and more. Perhaps because of the times we are in. It’s a topic heavy on my heart as I see many who are in unhealthy fellowships, as I once was. They looked good on the outside, but the subtleties of what they supported or didn’t took me on a path away from God by thinking I was on the right path when I wasn’t. For example these fellowships entailed; the Word wasn’t really the focus, my time in the Word wasn’t critical, cultivating personal intimacy with God wasn’t the center, dependency on teachers was accepted, trusting the spirit to teach wasn’t emphasized, a works mentality was honored, as long as I was in church I was headed in the right direction, and so on. They had major impacts to my spiritual health.
Now, we are all fallen. Look at who Jesus hung out with. Fallen people but they had a hunger for truth and listened and followed His Words. He is The Word. He was the authority. As in His communities, is the Word really first in ours? Now contrast that to the Pharisees who didn’t listen to His Word, but were quite religious, who followed the doctrines of men, and thought they knew better. It is about our hearts. It is about who is our authority, who we truly trust, who we truly follow – God or man.
Others have a tremendous influence on us and it’s critical especially these last days to examine the fellowships we are engaged in. Fellowship to me means the gathering of believers with the goal to encourage, exhort, pray, serve, tell of God’s good works and praise among other purposes. Healthy fellowship enriches our spirits, while unhealthy destructs.
The questions we all need to ask ourselves:
1. Are the fellowships we are engaged in healthy according to God’s Word?
2. Are they what GOD desires of us? Or are we following the crowd?
3. Have we taken time to deeply seek God’s will in this area?
Here are some verses on what kind of fellowships NOT to engage in:
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 “I wrote to you in my epistle not to keep company with sexually immoral people. 10 Yet I certainly did not mean with the sexually immoral people of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.”
1 Timothy 6:5 “useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain. From such withdraw yourself. “
In these last days, the false prophets, teachers, leaders, and messengers, will be where the majority of God’s people are – in the church system. There are a multitude of verses warning us about this unhealthy association with others as well as the vastness of deception and lies in the end days. God knew unhealthy fellowship would be extensive these days and warned us over and over because its influence is powerful. Let’s take heed to His warnings. Let’s understand our ability to be influenced by those around us.
Our guard from being in unhealthy fellowships is abiding in the Word in faith on a daily basis. Psalm 17:4 It’s our responsibility to examine our fellowship in the light of God’s Word like the verses above and act according to His instructions not our justifications. Justifications like; sure they (their church) are off on some things but overall I think they are doing good. By whose judgment, ours, the church’s, or God’s?
Lies are damaging, yet too often we excuse them. 2 Corinthians 11:4 The other day a fellow blogger mentioned in her blog, God’s Promises are Real, that Satan’s only weapon is lies. But what an effective tool that is! I think Christians start compromising the truth when they fear of appearing judgmental, pushing others away, being alone, or being rejected. At least these have been some of my reasons in the past. But it is for the sake of our spirits and others that we need to hold fast to the truth and expose lies with a motive of love when we see them.
Right now most of us, if not all, are living in some deceptions and lies because we live in a fallen world and its influence is strong over us. But as we abide in God’s Word and He reveals those lies to us what do we do? Continue to accept and support them? The Apostle Paul encountered all sorts of issues among believers. What did he do? He exhorted them and if they didn’t take heed to God’s Word, he responded as in 1 Corinithians 5. He didn’t hold back, justify or ignore. When it was necessary, he said certian people needed to go if they didn’t heed instruction. He told them to not compromise by letting damaging behaviors slide. And in some cases, he told them to leave unhealthy fellowships. He understood that one bad apple ruins the batch. He did this because He loved them.
True, healthy fellowship is a wonderful treasure. What does it look like? Different fellowships hold different purposes, but here are some of the characteristics I see in the Word:
- Informal gathering of 2 or more believers getting together being open, honest
- Each person is in the Word being taught by the Spirit and He is the source of truth not a human teacher
- What is spoken of is tested against the scriptures
- Drawing near to God and love as the goal – not entertainment, not increase in numbers
- Each actively uses their gifts
- More mature ones help others to learn from God and be dependent on God not man
- All parties are active, not passive
- Time to encourage and exhort as lead by the Spirit
- Opportunity to help others in need
- A place where it is okay to question beliefs of others and okay to disagree
- Where there are no man-made rules only the Word of God
- No dominations, but unity in the Spirit
- Intimacy to pray for one another
- Minister to each other’s deeper needs because you take time to know them
- Share God’s work in each others lives and praise God
Fellowship is a gift. God designed us to be connected to one another. But with this gift, as all gifts, we need to take heed to His instruction in this area so that we aren’t misled and the gift isn’t misused. It is a very influential area in our lives, whether good or bad. We each need to examine our fellowships in light of God’s Word and spend time seeking His will for where and who we fellowship with. Fellowship comes in many different forms. Let’s not limit Him or ignore His leading in this area. It is critical to our spiritual health.
November 3, 2009 at 11:34 am
Rachel, recently found your blog, thank you, what a blessing. It is so encouraging to read others thoughts that track with your own. Seems that our Lord is doing a work or shaking these days, looking forward to see how it all pans out, just hate the waiting part. After reading your post from the last couple of weeks, I wanted to share a couple of items with you, and encourage you to read a couple of books if you have not yet. So here goes, have you read any of Frank Viola or Milt Rodriguez books ? If not, I would recommend Reimagnining Church by Frank and any of Milt’s books.
Also have you heard of Jon Zens ? I will attach a lesson of his here -http://searchingtogether.org/free-to-function.htm, I think you will like reading this.
And finally, when you have time, read the following if you have not before, take time to listen to the lyrics of the song at the end of the following- http://ajesusmanifesto.wordpress.com/
Keep seeking Him, thanks for all you do and write. John Morris.
November 3, 2009 at 5:16 pm
John, thanks for the suggestions and encouragement. I haven’t read them. I’ll check it out. 🙂
November 3, 2009 at 1:59 pm
Very good points. I have no fellowship right now because i cant find anyone to worship with in truth who really follow Gods instructions in all matters of worship. Hope your fellowship works out for you.
November 3, 2009 at 5:13 pm
Marcus, There were months upon months when my fellowship was quite small. Nothing seemed to connect as you mentioned. But in reflection it was a time of being alone with God and building a solid foundation in Him as I cultivating intimacy with Him. Sometimes we go through that desert to be strengthen in Him. To ensure our foundation is truly Him. It was a very precious time looking back. I prayed for fellowship and trusted His timing. In time He brought rich ones into my life – and different from what I expereinced previously- smaller, more inimate, richer. I will keep you in my prayers that God will bring others into your life who have a heart for God, and that this time may be a time of builiding in your relationship with Him. And sometimes when the fellowship comes it isn’t in the form we expect – so keep an open mind – a person here or there, someone online . . .
November 3, 2009 at 6:08 pm
These question are an excellent assessment as to what a person may to do to best serve The Lord. We must all read the word and ask for the wisdom and strength to live it. Than you for the great insight.
November 3, 2009 at 6:22 pm
Thanks Dr. Lee. It can be a tough subject to confront but it is so important.
November 3, 2009 at 9:19 pm
Great post, Rachel–as always. You always have such insightful things to say. I forwarded this to my daughter (who’s sitting at the dining room table doing Algebra). So much easier than having her come and read it on my computer. 😉 Man are we spoiled!
You’ll enjoy Frank Viola’s books, I think. And Milt Rodriguez is my new favorite author. Here is his website. I am off to check out the John Zens stuff–I’ve heard of him, but never read any of his materials.
My husband and I and another couple from our fellowship are going to a house church conference this weekend and Rodriguez and Viola and some others will be speaking there. I’d love to hear what your gatherings look like. We’re still trying to figure out how to do this.
November 3, 2009 at 10:04 pm
Cindy, I look forward to checking them out. Thanks for the website!
November 4, 2009 at 5:07 pm
Just dont do what you see in every church on sundays and wednesday.Look at Acts 2. And just do it. That is what we have been doing now for 10 years. It is truly a blessing.
Worship, dont get me started. You have to have private worship inorder to have public.
Look up the first time the word “worship” appears in the bible. The law of first mention. That does not resemble what happens in most churches on sunday or wednesday.
Look for Jesus’s worhsip sessions in the bible. hmm. Selah.
Most cant find any because they dont resemble what the traditions in the church teaches.
“you cant just read the bible, you gotta read the bible.”
November 4, 2009 at 5:12 pm
AGM, thanks for your words . . . true about worship. The church system has made it something so different. It is a formulation of man – not God and may many come to understand the difference.
January 8, 2013 at 11:19 am
Consummation is a good term for it, especially in light of the fact that it is, in fact, not a rruten to Eden but the fulfillment of God’s plan of progress. I also like speaking in terms of “Creation and New Creation” (as NT Wright puts it): that “Redemption” is actually the beginning of the New Creation (“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” () and the future is the completion of that: I also think “Reconciliation” is probably an even better term than “Redemption” in that it reflects – that the blood of Christ on the cross is the event through which God is reconciling all things to himself.So, maybe “Creation / De-Creation / New Creation / Completion” OR “Creation / Alienation / Reconciliation / Consummation”.What do you think?
January 8, 2013 at 1:15 pm
Hi Daun, When you start learning the truths of God .. they keep going deeper and deeper and you find more ways thus words by which to explain a concept as truth builds. So yes those concepts are all part of gaining a deeper understanding of these truths.
November 4, 2009 at 2:15 am
rachel how did you find like minded people. thanks
November 4, 2009 at 5:04 pm
Marcus, I’m not part of a large fellowship by any means – in fact the opposite. About a couple of years ago after much prayer about fellowship and waiting, God started to bring into my life individuals. Now I get together with about seven other women. The realness, openness, intimacy, encouragement, exhortation has been tremendous. It is very different from what most people consider – but it’s where God has me right now. At other times, I’ve been a part of prayer groups and study groups – all forms of fellowship. I’m finding with the days we are in it is the small interactions that are most real and true to God’s Word. And I’ve found others online who are very like minded who I gain a lot of encouragement, support and insight. We need to open up our mind to different types of interactions and see who God has placed in our lives. Fellowship comes in all shapes and sizes. I wanted it to be real, open and based on God’s plan for me. And I have been very blessed in what He has given. It is perfect.
As for how I found them, when God brought others into my lives I pursued this fellowship with them. Some didn’t work out because they weren’t on the same page, but others did. It is stepping out and reaching out to those God has placed in your path – not knowing where God may take it. And opening up our idea of what fellowship is as I menitoned in the post. God knows our needs. He knows what best fits with us with where we are at. Our most imporatant fellowship is with Him. If you spend time cultivating that He will lead you to the other.
Hope this helps.
I hope this helps. Glad you asked.
November 4, 2009 at 5:16 pm
thank you, again, Rachel, for the great and VERY timely word! God is talking to me of the very same subject. Be blessed.
Marcus, I’ve also prayed for you that the Lord will bring His (and only His) perfect fellowship to your life. I would just concur with Rachel, ENJOY this intimacy of time with the Lord. When He separates you for a season of personal one-on-one instruction, looking back, it will be the best time of your life.
November 4, 2009 at 7:42 pm
Thomas – thanks so much for your encouragement to us all 😉
November 5, 2009 at 1:12 am
Rachel, excellent points. I’ve always recognized healthy fellowships because they will produce an atmosphere of trust for each other, along with support and encouragement, whether you are a newly saved Christian or an old Prayer warrior. In addition, everyone will be challenged in their faith at their particular stage of Christian growth, but not in a judgmental or condescending way.
November 5, 2009 at 1:26 am
Hi Mike. Thanks for sharing your insights. Trust is key and being real with one another.
November 5, 2009 at 7:21 pm
I appreciate the subject, especially because my wife and I have survived just about every abuse an unhealthy fellowship can cook up. It tends to sour one on the mega church-loud praise band-lengthy sermon with invitation approach. Just as you mentioned about your fellowship with the Lord one on one, we did that for quite a while, and we recommend it. When asked by a former member of a mega church we had attended, “where are you attending church now?” we honestly answered “we are staying home and fellowshipping with the Lord.” the person did an abrupt about face and walked away, leaving her husband with us sputtering embarrassed pleasantries. Goodness! you would think we had shot somebody!
Oh well, Jesus is very good to us, and has promised that before too long, we will have a nice little ecclesia of our own, very much along the lines you have listed above. It does not have to be big, but it must be centered around Him.
I would like to emphasize that when everything is clicking with everyone, a free form time together is wonderful, but sometimes when you have infants in Christ with you, it is good to do a bit of teaching, as gifts and the Spirit provide.
I believe that the modern sermon is a traditional remnant (though distorted beyond all recognition today) of the Spirit-led teaching sessions in the early church. Like when Paul sat up and taught all night in Acts 20:7-12.
We actually have a great deal of flexibility in the Spirit and He will work with the situation at hand, that’s why it is important to not get stuck in a pattern or routine (liturgy) as if it were God-given, while ignoring the leading of the Spirit.
I believe that reaching maturity in Christ, is discouraged in the modern “church” setting, because the “institutional church” has become a business, and having lots of people around who are maturing and hearing God, is bad for business.
Thanks Rachel for bravely raising the banner, yet again.
November 6, 2009 at 5:06 pm
Nathan, You made some excellent points!! Thanks for sharing it is greatly appreciated. It is fascinating how the spirit is connecting us – those who have come to similar insights. It is so crucial to be spirit-lead and getting to that point of maturity is a process that takes cultivation and time on our part. It is the life we were called to lead.
November 6, 2009 at 8:20 pm
November 10, 2009 at 10:08 pm
Rachel, thanks for this reminder. It’s often those ‘small’ daily hassles or frustrations or irritations with people that can cause the most ‘fleshly’ response. I have too often been reminded of my own tendency to not forgive these things. Thanks for the reminder of mercy. “As I have love you, so you must love one another.”
November 11, 2009 at 12:25 am
Steve, how true your words are. And that love is only possible in His strength not ours.
November 14, 2009 at 5:01 am
Hello again. This is something that hits close to me and I feel as though I don’t have a fellowship right now. Were in a church that we have been attending; almost out of a “it’s Sunday-we go to church” mentality. But that’s a schedule; not fellowship. We go in and greet others before things get underway. And I know that the conversation isn’t going to be in heavenly places. It’s going to be “hows work going?” Or how are the goats doing?” We have eternal life in Jesus, but everyone wants to talk about stuff.
And my favorite one…”Some weather we’re having.” It takes all of my restraint to not offer up a sarchastic reply. (Oh yeah; I saw it) Sometimes I do respond to the weather watchers with a referral to I Peter 3:10. “Well it’s not melting with a fervent heat yet.” Sadly, of all the times I’ve made this comment; NOBODY has tied it together with the verse that it makes reference to. Instead, I get the puzzled facial expression, followed by their seeking an exit strategy, every time.
I’m curently looking elsewhere, but sadly I don’t expect to find what I’m looking for. The compromising and misdirection has become so profound that true fellowship is hard. I pray “Lord I really do desire fellowship; like what is described in scripture.”
I fine more fellowship with CR; the saint who used to work at AAM than at my church. We talk much, head out into the streets together to share thye gospel, ponder the times and discuss the deep things of God. My wife sometimes gets uneasy when we are talking on the phone (even though she only hears my half of the conversation) because we’ll discuss the coming tribulation and related topics with such ease as though we’re talking about fishing.
The other place of fellowship is right here in the blogosphere. It’s astonishing to find so many like-minded saints and yet know that we’re all situated in different venues. In fact earlier today, I was wondering where I would be right now if I couldn’t find folks to talk with. If CR hadn’t come to Jesus in November of 2006 (he’s young in the Lord but has grown so very fast) and this forum was unavailable. If I only had the local churches in which to find fellowship; most of which are gone the way of compromise, (focusiong on relationships, holding financial seminars and what have you) where I would be now. Surely the Lord can sustain us; even in the most desolate of environments, but sinsere fellowship is sweet. Finding a like-minded saint whose affections are on the Lord Jesus is a real breath of fresh air.
Very insightful posting. Blessings always in Jesus name.
November 14, 2009 at 8:44 pm
Timbob – I appreciate you sharing your story. It is one I think MANY can relate to. I think we get stuck in thinking about fellowship in a certain way (in church) but true fellowship these days is mostly found outside the church – like you mentioned with CR and in blogville. The end is upon us, judgment is upon us but God always provides for those who are truly His. I actually see it as an exciting time as believers are connecting in different ways. LAs you are doing, we have to keep our minds open to what fellowship looks like and where we may come across it or we will miss a huge blessing right under our nose.
January 10, 2013 at 2:54 am
, “I’ve heard it from more Christians than I’d care to count: anybody who santds up for the ecological issues is an ‘environmental wacko.'”Bob, if you’ve heard it from more Christians that you care to count, can you actually name one Christian who has put it in the exact terms you just stated? First names will suffice…See, I take issue with your premise. Of course “it is unfair rhetoric to call all who are concerned with the environment a “wacko”. I just don’t know any Christians who do this…seriously. There are…”people who are concerned with the environment”…and then there ARE…”wackos”.
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November 18, 2009 at 9:34 pm
Hey Rachel, this is another post (and collection of comments) that really speaks to me! My “fellowship” has changed over the years and by His grace, so has my heart and relationship with God. Right now, I don’t attend any “organized church group.” Sometimes I miss it – something about the routine is comfortable, but I’ve prayed for months and don’t believe God has led me back to any place like that. So… I am still seeking and questioning what it means to “assemble ourselves together.”
I appreciate your list of fellowship characteristics and the ideas/stories offered by the commenters. I have been blessed to find some forms of fellowship like that with a handful of family/friends and with brenthren I’ve met online.
My mom and I spent time together talking, sharing, praising and singing, and exhorting each other; we’ve had our share of tests and trials as mother/daughter and as adult sisters in Christ, but we live together now and that makes for a way of assembling daily as we work and search together. We also spend time taking care of my little nephew, and it’s exciting and scary to think about sharing Jesus with him. He’s gotten into the sweet habit of reaching up to our cross necklaces and saying “cross”; it’s one of the few words he can say right now, and even though he’s little, we go ahead and share something about Jesus when he says it.
Another fellowship that has become part of my life is going to “Sacred Harp Singings.” There’s not a lot of interaction, but everyone sings together, all sitting in a square (one leg for each harmony part), taking turns picking songs and leading them. Those old hymns are rich with teaching from the Word and praises and laments from the journeys of brethren who are asleep now. (Their website – http://www.fasola.org – tells more about them and has the lyrics to the hymns.)
I appreciate your exhortation to test for truth and guard against lies as well. It’s so sad and scary how many organized groups are embrasing teachings that aren’t of God and people who do not strive for holiness. As hard as it is to hear sometimes, I know I have plenty of weaknesses and am far from living completely free of sin, and I need to hear about it, instead of being left alone to wallow in the mire in the name of not being judged or criticized!
I pray often that God will lead me into fellowship/assembly that will enrich my walk with Him AND that He will help me to be encourageing to others in the same way that I need encouragement! I’d appreciate your prayers as well!
Blessings to you, Rachel.
November 19, 2009 at 6:49 pm
Ruth, Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. I added you to my prayer list. Fellowship comes in many sizes, shapes and colors – as times are changing and the end is upon us, many are seeking true fellowship. My prayer is that we recognize what/who is already in our lives waiting to minister to us and us to them. And I pray that we will all passionately foster our fellowship with God through His Word because that is the foundation to all fellowships.
November 19, 2009 at 9:48 pm
Thanks, Rachel. I value your prayers!
November 20, 2009 at 8:24 pm
ooh yeah, those churchy conversations are very shallow. And the crazy thing about it is that they resist going deeper. It is sad to think how close they are to the truth and they won’t touch it.
Hey Ruth what you and your mom are doing sounds like fun! I would love to go the one of those “Sacred Harp singing” things.
Hang in there, if you ask Him and listen, He will tell you what He’s doing in your area, well not absolutely everything, but He will certainly tell you what you need to know. He probably has a really good reason for shaking you loose from the institutional church, ask Him about it.
November 20, 2009 at 8:51 pm
Nathan – Thanks for all your encouragement!
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