A flimsy conversation and a deeper calling.
A study I’m participating in at my church presented the question of what constitutes genuine Christian fellowship. Here's the scenario: Five Christians gather to talk about sports, technology, and weather. Was this genuine Christian fellowship?
The group was split. Some said, yes it was. A group of Christians getting together is fellowship. Others said no. A group of Christians discussing worldly matters and nothing else is not true Christian fellowship.
I leaned toward the “yes, it was” answer, pointing out that a conversation of the same subjects among five unredeemed people would have different markers. An outsider listening to either exchange would pick up on which group called themselves Christians. A code exists among the one group demanding respect for God, resistance of improper language and topics, and hopefully a kinder demeanor. The other group might not exhibit these markers to the same degree, if at all. Also, there is an understanding among the believers that they’re in safe company. They’re with family.
The friendly discussion went on longer than it should have. Someone commented that perhaps we should find out what the Bible teaches on the matter. Then the leader of the group moved us into the rest of the lesson. Of course, the rest of the lesson offered Biblical insight into our dilemma.
Some of us, including me, stuck to our original conclusion. Although I began to see the problem with a bunch of Christians habitually getting together for no good reason. If Christ is the head of the body, why would the members of the body join for any purpose other than His purpose? Later, I asked my son his opinion. The thing that stuck out in his “that’s not true fellowship” answer was this: “The early church wouldn’t have cared about football.” Hypothetical, yes, because they didn’t have ESPN. But exactly right. According to Acts 2: 42, the early church met out of devotion to learning, to the care of each other, to the remembrance of the sacrificial body and blood of Christ, and to prayer.
Well, that doesn’t sound anything like discussing sports, technology, and weather. So, I’d like to change my answer. Those five Christians did not experience genuine Christian fellowship. Not that there’s anything wrong with a group of Christians getting together and discussing anything at all that doesn’t offend the group, those who might be listening, or the head of the body. But…is it not an offense to Christ to be upstaged during fellowship by matters of the world? The early church would have been more on task with encouragement, with empathy, with building one another up in knowledge and commitment. They wouldn’t have cared if it was going to rain this weekend. The Gospel would not have fallen in line behind…anything.
Mundane conversation can be the beginning of fellowship. But if it doesn’t move past this world to the other-worldly, to the mission, to the love we share, to the remembrance of the sacrifice, to the spread of the Gospel, then we’re just chatting. And if all we have is chatter, then maybe we haven’t realized who we really are in Christ. Maybe we’re neglecting the Bible’s clear call to fellowship with one another.