Fellowship as a Means of Growth


Dennis McCallum



Christians who are serious about spiritual growth are also serious about the Body of Christ. Growth is never a matter of mere individual pursuit of God. It is always pictured as something we pursue as a community. The importance of fellowship for growth is seen, not just in experience, but in the pages of the Bible, as the following chart shows.

I Corinthians 12:21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, "I have no need of you"; or again the head to the feet, "I have no need of you."No Christian can claim he or she doesn't need ministry from and to other believers. The context of this statement makes it clear that we have all been given gifts for the edification of others. By implication, if we cannot say we don't need them, they cannot say they don't need us! Notice that it is not just the presence of the other members that we need but also their function.
I Corinthians 12:7,14 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good . . . For the body is not one member, but many.Our gifts are for the common good, i.e., for the good of others. Because we are a part, and not the whole, of the Body of Christ, we need what the other parts of the Body supply. God has not gifted any of us so much that we can meet all our own needs.
I Corinthians 14:26 What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification.Our times of assembly together are for mutual edification. Whatever you believe about spiritual gifts, there can be no doubt that our meetings are for this purpose. Therefore, if we fail to assemble, we will miss out on edification.
Ephesians 4:15 . . . speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the Head, even Christ . . ..The Body of Christ should be seen as an organic union based on genuine personal relationships and mutual interdependence. Within these relationships we have the opportunity to speak the truth in love. The important point is not just that we attend meetings (although this is a necessary aspect) but that we authentically share the life of Christ with one another.
Hebrews 10:,24,25 Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.It is in the context of loving relationships that we can learn to stimulate each other to love and good deeds. Devoting time to our meetings is an essential part of this scenario.
Acts 2:42,46 And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching and to fellowship [Koinonea], to the breaking of bread and to prayer . . . And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart . . .The example of the early church included extensive involvement in fellowship. This fellowship included both meetings (held at Solomon's portico, which was part of the temple, or in homes) and informal times of social and spiritual relationship building. Their involvement was more or less daily according to this passage. Real koinonea means not just attendance at a meeting or two, but successfully building supportive relationships.
Romans 12:4-6a For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly . . .Our identity in Christ includes the aspect that we are also "individually members of one another." This organic, spiritual, or mystical union of believers with Christ and each other is a sacred thing, which should affect our daily lives. We cannot ignore our union with other believers and still live out our new identity in Christ.
Matt. 18:19,20 Again I say to you, that if two of you agree on earth about anything that they may ask, it shall be done for them by My Father who is in heaven. For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there I am in their midst.In this passage, Christ puts special emphasis on his presence during times of Christian fellowship. It may be that some prayers will not be answered until we pray "Our Father," rather than "My Father."
I Corinthians 12:18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired.The Body of Christ is constituted by God, not by man. A local manifestation of the Body of Christ can take different forms. One of these is an incorporated church. Whether a group is incorporated as a church or not, God recognizes all those who are united with Christ as members of his Body.