Last week was a very special and very unusual week. It started on the Monday with a lunch at the Bishop of Exeter’s palace for a group of clergy. It ended on the Hoe on Sunday evening with Noel Richards leading us in an hour of worship, and John Boyers, the Chaplain of Manchester United, preaching the word of God. In between, on the Saturday morning a group of us from about six or seven different churches started planning our first Causeway Prospects service in Plymouth. And during the week, sadly, I had to travel across the country to attend the funeral of a friends’ little boy at a church in Loughborough.
As I have looked back on all these different activities, the one constant factor has been the depth of fellowship I have experienced with my fellow believers, many of whom I was meeting for the first time. Whether it was opening the Scriptures together in the Bishop’s chapel, or singing along on the Hoe, or discerning God’s will for our little planning group, or releasing balloons into the sky at the end of the funeral and seeing together the beautiful rainbow in the clouds, I was struck that in one sense I wasn’t a stranger to any of them. We all had a common identity in Christ. I was meeting distant family members, who also bore the likeness of Christ, however imperfectly. I was blessed by meeting them, and hopefully they were blessed in some small way by myself.
Fellowship in the gospel is really just so important. Sharing sorrows, joys, hopes and fears is how we grow closer to one another and to Jesus. It’s what Jesus means by two or three gathering in His name. And it’s why whenever possible I seek out fellowship with fellow believers.
So why are so many people half-hearted about going to church? Why does it fall down their list as soon as a better offer comes along, or life starts getting busy? If we are seeking to grow in our faith, if we are intent on following Jesus, then I can’t see how we can do anything other make fellowship our top priority. Not simply because by our absence we might miss out on the blessing Jesus wants to give us. But because we are denying our brothers and sisters in Christ – whether they are known to us or not – the blessing of our presence to them.
In Acts chapter 2, we read how in the days after Pentecost the early church devoted themselves to the fellowship. It was one reason for such rapid and such astonishing growth. Because they loved being together, God was able to work in and through them by His Holy Spirit. Fellowship leads to growth – personally and spiritually. I certainly know how much I was enriched last week, and I am so grateful for all that I received.