The biblical words for fellowship and communion are identical and indicate a “commonness” or “community.” Every believer is a participant in a larger, much larger, organism. There are characteristics and functions that all believers share in common. It is interesting that the New Testament shows fellowship happening in conjunction with sharing a meal. Never underestimate the value of sitting down together to share bread and share your life. This seems to work in smaller church groups, but large groups seem to succeed at providing great banquets and buffet lines, but if they only provide surface relationships and fail at providing honest deep fellowship between people. Fund-raising dinners should be outlawed. Paul commented strongly about dinners that do more harm than good.
How can we get believers to move from casual how-are-you-today relationships in church to genuine fellowship with commitment and trust? It seems that it is easier for some of us to connect with non-believers.
The Andy Griffith show has been a favorite television show for as long as I can remember. To receive it when I was a child, we had to go outside and turn the antenna. Now, my Amazon Prime account allows me to watch it on any electronic device. Over the years, I have observed at least four levels of relationships that were demonstrated, four gradual steps to deeper relationships as demonstrated by Andy’s house in Mayberry. Some folks just stood on the sidewalk and talked in front of the house. I’m not sure these characters all had names, as they may have been extras. Some closer friends were invited into the living room and dining room for pie. There were some great parties there with Howard and Goober. More intimate friends were invited to stay late and sit on the front porch for more personal conversation, guitar playing, and maybe even shared a smoke with Andy which probably wasn’t as shocking to viewers from North Carolina. But only a very few people got to fellowship in Aunt Bea’s kitchen for a midnight snack of home-made pickles. All that to say that for discipleship to happen we need to invite people into a deeper level of our lives, probably that front porch level, but without the tobacco smoke. Also to say that we cannot disciple 100% of everyone at the same time.
There is something fundamentally self-contradictory about all-church discipleship programs in which dozens or hundreds of people gather at one time and engage in a discipleship program. The Bible calls Jesus’ disciples “Dodeka” [a]δώδεκα, dōdeka or The Twelve, so I recommend we keep it under that. Jesus also appears to indicate that a group of two or three is appropriate. Me and you is two. One more is three.
Christian fellowhip is an ancient practice.
There is nothing new in this document, and I am unqualified to write it.
God has provided a supernatural library from which we can glean a successful discipleship program based upon His wisdom and purpose. My document is a personal gleaning from God’s official documents. My document contains nothing new, just the same old Christian texts that we have studied and read over and over since we were kids in Sunday School. In fact, if you find a new discipleship, not based upon God’s amazing ancient apostolic texts, just ignore it, no matter how sensational it is. A business guy will tell you how to disciple by applying business principles that get good results. Ignore him. Ignore both the slick marketing and the dramatic results. If you are familiar with the teachings of the New Testament, you know this stuff. You don’t need a new idea. You simply need to implement the original idea. It is much simpler and less expensive.
Discipleship should not be an expensive novelty. It should be the normal everyday function of every Believer in every church.
I say that I have nothing new to say about discipleship because there have been a multitude of pastors that have preached and practiced biblical discipleship since the days of the Apostles. I am saddened to see modern authors and experts telling Christians that they have been doing it wrong all along. I say to my co-laborers in the Gospel, those of you that have been guiding believers to become stronger, healthier followers of Jesus, that you have been doing it right all along. I hope I can affirm your efforts in some way. Hold fast to what is good.
I have based my writing upon my personal examination of the instructions in the Christian Scriptures. The study and commentary is tainted by my own ministry experience.
Furthermore, I am unqualified to write anything. I have not attained a high degree in education. I do not boast of proven techniques that have produced sensational results. I have never pastored a mega-church or launched a massive small group program. I am not a published author. I am merely a Christian minister who reads my Bible. With God’s help, I believe we can follow His instructions. This text is my free advice and worth every cent.