I recently moved my membership from my local church to one 30 miles away in order to remain in an American Baptist congregation. That’s not because I think Heaven will be populated exclusively with American Baptists, or that any Chistian denomination or sect has a lock on salvation. It’s just that in order to hold a national office in our women’s ministry I have to be an active member of an American Baptist Church.
In looking over my membership certificate from my new church and reading the included Scriptures about fellowship with our brothers and sisters in Christ, I began to appreciate anew the reasons our Lord instructs his followers to gather together for worship, instruction, prayer and fellowship.
Since I no longer have a hometown church I find it difficult to take part in church life outside of Sunday worship. I work full-time and have family responsibilities. Night-blindness prevents me from driving after dark, so mid-week services and social events are no longer part of my schedule.
I try to fill the gaps via frequent emails and discussion groups with the other members of the National Board but I definitely feel the lack of face-to-face personal interaction.
As a member of the Public Relations Team I try to keep up on marketing techniques and trends. Recently I’ve noticed that marketing experts are promoting personal appeals as being the most effective.
Today people everywhere are feeling the need for personal recognition and contact: in other words, fellowship.
This is a tremendous opportunity for our local churches and women’s groups to reach out, one-on-one, in their neighborhoods and make social connections with the people of the community.
I’m not talking about the old-fashioned door-to-door canvass, but rather a purposeful effort to encourage the current members to make new friends and get more involved in the community with the goal of authentic fellowship.
Fellowship with our neighbors can lead to sharing the reasons for choosing fellowship with God, as well.
Fellowship, doing things together in easy companionship, comes first. Out of these shared experiences a relationship is formed. We learn things from the people with whom we have relationship, so that is a form of discipleship, where we find out the reasons for our friend’s thoughts and feelings. Those three steps, taken in the proper order, with time and attention may some day lead to commitment.
That is the pattern in friendships, marriages and churches, too. And it all begins with fellowship.