Summary: Someone has called it the glue that holds the church together.

(Earlier in the service, I asked the congregation to be ready to respond to the following question when prompted by me during the sermon. (Overhead) If you were looking for a friend and you placed a classified ad either in the paper or on the Internet for one, what would it say?)

“A pastor saw Robert Schuller’s TV program “Hour of Power.” One of the things that impressed him the most during the program was watching everyone turning around to shake hands with and greet other worshippers seated near them. The pastor felt that his church was a bit stuffy and could use a bit of friendliness. So, at Sunday morning worship he announced that next week they would initiate this custom of greeting one another.

At the close of this same worship service one man turned around to the lady behind him and said a cheerful, “Good morning!” She looked back at him with shock at his boldness and said, “I beg your pardon! That friendliness business doesn’t start until next Sunday!”

As we continue to study things that are important to the Christian faith and life, we stop today at something that this humorous story hints at in a rather direct way. What is it?

Someone has called it the glue that holds the church together.

What is fellowship?

It is one of the five purposes that we have embraced in our new by-laws.

What is fellowship?

It is one of the ways we express love and respect for one another.

What is fellowship?

What is fellowship? (Overhead) Here are some suggestions from Dave Durey.

Fellowship means: 1. Truly loving one another. 2. Based on relationships – giving, sharing, and receiving. 3. Requires us to live in unity and harmony. 4. Assists us in mutual edification and spiritual growth.

Now, what does all that mean?

Our text for today, John 13:34 and 35, is Jesus’ speaking to the disciples about the centrality of love as evidence of His presence in their lives and, as He does so, He makes it clear that it is not an option, but a requirement, a command. How is this love nurtured and established? Through fellowship! Through an intentional process and choice that each of us must make to come together and care for one another and others.

The word “fellowship” is translated from the Greek word “koinonia” which means, “sharing in common.” (Overhead) Two questions come to mind that we need to ask and answer if we are to understand and practice this sharing in common which brings us back to our fellowship definition: (Overhead)

1.What are we to share in common?

2. How are we to share in common?

(Seek response)

We are to share in our relationship to Christ and we are to share in love and respect in an active way. That is the basis for our Christian fellowship. But, there is more to it than simply sharing.

It requires us to develop relationships with one another. It means that we take the time to intentionally get to know and understand one another as we give, share, and receive. But, what are some barriers to giving, sharing, and receiving? (Seek response)

These are barriers to fellowship. Fellowship is central to the continuing growth and development of our church, of any church, for that matter and when it is hindered, a church begins to flounder.

Now there is a third question on this overhead that we need to ask and answer. Who are we to share with?

Let’s look at verse 35 of our text, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” We first of all share it with one another as proof that we are followers of God.

Last week I said that it is often easier to talk the talk than to walk the walk. Here is one area where that’s the case. There is a lot of talk in the church about love and fellowship but when it comes right down to it, it is harder to practice it, for the reasons just mention, right? But, there’s more to it than that.

Our love for one another is said to be proof to the world of our commitment to Christ. We then are also to share this with others outside our own fellowship. Why? Well for one, a very practical reason.

Those who have studied churches over the years and what makes some grow and thrive and others decline and even die have said that one of the common reasons for decline and death is called “koinonitis.” What is it?

It is what happens when the fellowship of the church stays exclusively within the current church body and is not extended to those outside the church body or those who seek to enter the church body. The focus becomes “us” and others are shut off from entering.

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