Why Does Fellowship Elude Us?

If everyone is looking for fellowship, why is fellowship so hard to find?  And once we have found it, why is it so hard to maintain it?

When God begins to bring you out of church and into a deeper relationship with Himself, there is a lot of unlearning that has to take place – particularly in the area of fellowship.

It has been said that every lost person has a Christ-shaped void in their heart that only Christ can fill.  A similar thing can be said of believers who come out of the religious system.  When God calls us to be with Him “outside the camp,” there is a church-shaped void in our heart where church used to be.  This void makes us feel restless and insecure and empty.  We remember the fellowship we used to enjoy, and we begin to long for it.  Pretty soon, we begin to look for things to fill the church-shaped void in our heart.

This explains the seemingly endless pursuit of fellowship.  Some look for it in the house church movement.  Some look for it in a small-group setting, or in a living room, or at a coffee shop.  People typically gravitate towards the opposite extreme of what they were hurt or disillusioned by. Problem with the pastor?  We will look for (or create) a group without any spiritual leadership.  Problem with doctrine?  We will look for (or create) a group that agrees with us in belief, doctrine, or teaching.

Often it is nothing more complicated than trying to take all the “good stuff” we remember from our church days and attempting to re-create it outside of church – without all the “bad stuff” that made us leave in the first place.  We will simply look for (or create) an environment that delivers the best of both worlds: all the things we love about church, without all the things we hate.

Once I was in a home meeting and someone was sharing a deep hurt.  I sensed the spirit of God was about to minister a word of wisdom and comfort to this person.  Suddenly, a brother who had been flipping through an old hymn book, oblivious to the surroundings, announced, “Let’s all sing Number 423!”  Besides being rude to the other person and insensitive to how the Spirit of God was moving, what was the brother’s problem?  He was trying to recreate a certain “atmosphere” that he once enjoyed in church.  In his quest to make things happen on his terms, he completely misread the situation.  It was left up to me to tell him to hush, and why singing a hymn wasn’t appropriate at this exact moment.  He (predictably) was offended, accusing me of being “anti-worship” 🙂 . But his behavior illustrates a longing to go back and enjoy something he used to enjoy in church, without actually going back to church.

Here’s a radical thought: what if the church-shaped void in our heart isn’t meant to be filled with anything?  What if God intends for us to get rid of that church-shaped void and stop trying to fill it?  Isn’t the church-shaped void in our heart really just an idol?  And that idol not only hinders our spiritual growth and maturity in a Christ-centered faith, it also hinders our relationships with one another and prevents us from entering into real Spirit-and-Truth fellowship with one another.

5 Reasons Why Fellowship Eludes Us

Why is fellowship so elusive to us?  Everyone says they seek it, yet everyone says it is difficult to find.  Those who find it cannot maintain it for long.  Those that do manage to maintain it often end up looking more like an institutional church than a real Body of Christ.

I submit the following five reasons…

1. Indulging in “Fellowship Fantasies.”  We often create unrealistic, unbiblical expectations of what fellowship is, and then we try to fulfill those “fellowship fantasies” in the real world.  We imagine what the perfect meeting or group looks like, sounds like, and acts like – we may even experience a temporary rush at finding what we describe as the “perfect” church, house church, or group to fellowship with – but then we are surprised and disappointed to find that no one can live up to our idealistic notions.  Some will end up going back to church, and others will just go from one group to the next in the endless pursuit of “like-mindedness.”

To overcome this, get real clear on one thing: there are no perfect churches, perfect groups, or perfect meetings.  Get over your fellowship fantasy so you can interact with imperfect, immature people in the real world.

2. Chronic “Meetingitus.”  This condition is contracted through years of attending church.  Those who suffer from Chronic Meetingitus can only fathom fellowship in the context of a meeting – because that is the only context in which they have ever experienced it.

I first diagnosed this in a brother who met me for lunch many years ago.  I thought we were having good fellowship, but soon he turned the conversation around to his real purpose: where do I meet, and who do I meet with?  When I answered that I didn’t meet with anyone at the moment, his face literally fell and with a sad, whiney voice he said, “Oh, I was SO hoping to find some fellowship around here!”  And he began to regale me with all the other meetings he had attended elsewhere.  It occurred to me that if the brother really wanted fellowship, he could have had it right then and there with me sitting at the table; instead, what he really wanted was a “Meeting.”  He couldn’t conceive of any important spiritual interaction taking place outside of an official meeting or gathering.

If you are afflicted with this condition, you are severely limiting your opportunities for fellowship.   Expand your thinking to include any kind of interaction with other brothers and sisters as an opportunity for “fellowship.”  Stop trying to capture “fellowship” and stuff it into a certain time and place.  Eliminate the need for regularly scheduled meetings and open your eyes to the opportunities right in front of you.

3. The “Done For Me” Fellowship Model.  This is a variant of the typical Fellowship Fantasy but sounds more spiritual.  It’s an idealistic notion of how things “should be.”  Scriptures are produced to support an idea of how meetings and fellowship should be conducted, and this (along with a little help from our favorite house church leaders) is used as a template to critique  whatever group we’re attending.  Invariably, the group falls short of the “New Testament model” and disappointment ensues.  “You’re doing it all wrong!” the critic cries, and either causes a commotion or leaves in consternation.

But what is the underlying expectation?  We want to walk into a “done for me” fellowship that requires nothing from us.  We want all the people to be fully grown with a mature model of church government in place and everything running smoothly according to the “New Testament pattern” we envision – but we aren’t willing to invest ourselves into making it happen.  We want a ready-made fellowship that we can just show up and benefit from without having to do any of the hard work of making it work.  I doubt any such fellowship exists, or would survive for very long.

4.  Self-Destructive Self-Centeredness.   Fellowship is based on relationship.  Relationship is based on loving God and loving others.  Since love is based on putting others first, Self-Centeredness is not compatible with fellowship.  This, in a nutshell, gets to the heart of the matter.  We spent years going to church to get our needs met – the service was for us, the sermon was for us, the music was for us, the pastor was for us, the fellowship was for us.  Now we are looking for fellowship, and the motivation still revolves around getting our needs met.  We “need” fellowship, we “need” social interaction, we “need” other people, we “need” encouragement from like-minded believers.  And so, we really haven’t changed at all.  We’re still consumed, absorbed, obsessed, and infatuated with what we need and frustrated by what we don’t have.

So it’s no wonder that fellowship eludes the Self-Centered.  In the world of banking, if everyone shows up to make a withdrawal, and no one makes a deposit, the whole system goes bankrupt.  Many fellowships and groups are spiritually bankrupt for the very same reason – everyone is taking but no one is giving.  They suck each other dry with their problems, their needs, their issues.  Many would argue that the gathering of Believers is the place where people SHOULD come to get their problems solved, their needs met, and their issues resolved.  I would suggest, however, that the gathering of Believers is the place where people should come to be problem solvers, to meet the needs of others, and to help others work through their issues.  It sounds similar, but the difference is like night and day. The end result will be that everyone’s needs are met because everyone is giving without expecting to receive – and in the giving and helping and ministering to one another, our personal needs are met.  Ironically, if we focus on “getting” instead of “giving” we end up bankrupting ourselves and everyone else.  This is the death sentence for many groups that drags you down instead of building you up.

5. Dysfunctional Relationships.  The biggest reason why fellowship eludes us has to do with our own inability to understand what healthy relationships look like.  As I watch these Christian dating commercials I see women who are head over heels “in love” with the man of their dreams, gushing about what he does for them, and how he makes them feel.  I’m a little bit concerned about the future of any relationship that is based on how the other person makes them “feel.” Why? Because there is a misconception that love is based on what the other person does for me, and how they make me feel.  This is not true love at all; it is too Self-Centered to be genuine love.

A relationship is not about what I can take from the relationship, but what I can give to the relationship.  A dysfunctional relationship is based on what I’m getting out of it.  If I’m getting what I want, I’m happy and I feel loved and satisfied; if not, I am unhappy and I feel unloved, and I start wondering about the relationship.  This is 100% backwards!

But when this attitude creeps into all our relationships, the result is disaster.  When that happens, my relationship with God hinges on what God does for me – I am happy and feel loved as long as I am healthy, wealthy, blessed, and feeling good.  But if God lets me down too many times, I start to question the relationship, and I feel unhappy.  Well, that’s not love, that’s a dysfunctional relationship you have with God.

What does this have to do with fellowship?  Everything.  Because fellowship is based on relationships with others.  And if your idea of a relationship is “what can I get out of it” instead of “what can I put into it” then the relationship will fail.   It doesn’t matter if the relationship is a marriage, a friendship, a business partnership, an employer-employee relationship, or the fellowship that exists between brothers and sisters.  To make relationships work, we have to give more than we get.  A dysfunctional, one-sided relationship ruins the whole thing, and that makes fellowship impossible.

Why God Doesn’t Allow Fellowship

Here’s a strange concept: God may be closing doors in your life when it comes to fellowship with others.  We seek it, we pray for it, we complain about it, yet God does not give us what we ask for.  Why not?

1. To break religious addiction.  Often when a person gives up one addiction (like smoking) they end up taking on a new addiction (like overeating).  It is difficult to recognize an addiction and overcome it without finding something else to replace it.  In the case of religious addiction, some leave the church and immediately go out in search of another addiction to replace it.  “Fellowship” becomes the new drug of choice – it sounds so spiritual! – and people tend to wander around in search of their next fellowship “fix.”  It is a very real psychological and spiritual condition.

God will not reinforce or encourage your religious addiction by giving you more fellowship.  In my experience, He longs to have you all to Himself for a little while.  He seeks intimacy with you that you have probably never experienced before (and will probably never experience) until He can get you alone and apart with Him for a season.  The stronger the addiction, the more difficult it is to accept these seasons of being alone with God – and the more difficult it is to accept, the more necessary it is for you to learn to be totally and completely satisfied in God; so satisfied that people can take nothing away from it, and people can add nothing to it.  This is critically important to recognizing true fellowship when God allows it.  He only allows it when He can trust you with it, and knows it will not just be another religious addiction for you to become enslaved to.

2. To reduce us to Christ.  The question always needs to be asked: “Is Jesus enough for you?”  For many, the honest answer is no.  They feel they “must” have fellowship, social interaction, and the smiling faces of brothers and sisters constantly encouraging them on.  Without this support, they are moody, irritable, lonely, and dissatisfied.  Jesus is not enough for them.

For that very reason, God must deny us the fellowship we so desperately seek from others and reduce us to Christ – to bring us to the place where Jesus is all you want, and Jesus is all you need.  People can only take us so far.  If our spiritual life depends on being in constant contact with people then what happens when people are not around?  Exactly what people searching for fellowship complain of: loneliness and emptiness.

How is such loneliness and emptiness  possible?  Simply because we have more faith and assurance in the people we see around us than in the invisible, indwelling Christ Who lives within us.  People will disappear and disappoint; on the other hand, Jesus has never left us, and will never forsake us!  The solution is more of Jesus and less of everything else – and for most people, “fellowship” is part of the “everything else” that has to be sacrificed for a time, until Christ has preeminence in them.

3. To teach us the true meaning of love.  We have looked at the reasons why fellowship eludes us.  They all relate to a Self-Centered existence that is not compatible with the Christ-Centered Life, which means it is not compatible with Love.  When people get together in this state it creates more problems than it solves and does tremendous damage.  This is why many have come out of the religious system; yet, if we do not unlearn what we learned to do in church, we’ll create the same problems and do even more damage when we meet outside of the church.

God needs to do some work in us before we are fit to fellowship with others.  We have to learn what a real love relationship looks like.  Where do we learn it?  As we enter into a new season of being alone and apart with God, we begin to understand what true love is. And when those lessons of love are learned in our personal relationship with God, He shows us how to apply those same lessons of love in all our other relationships.  We benefit from a better marriage, better working relationships, and deeper, richer fellowship with others – all in due season.  Our personal relationship with God is the foundation upon which all other healthy relationships can grow and thrive.  This is why we emphasize this One Relationship above all others: it is the most important, yet often, it is the most neglected.

4. To prepare us for tribulation.  Regardless of what you believe about the Rapture and the Tribulation, Jesus says that we will experience tribulation in this world.  Many Christians around the world currently suffer persecution without the comfort of other people to support them or encourage them.  Yet, these same Christians have shown us time and again that they have a strong spiritual life, and they continue to produce spiritual fruit (including joy!) in spite of deep affliction.

If your spiritual life is based on church, or meetings, or regular face-to-face fellowship with others, what happens when those things are taken away, or denied, or not available, because of persecution or tribulation?  It has happened before, and it could happen again; and if it does, many will stumble and fall because they have not learned how to live in Christ, and find their joy in Him, without fellowshipping with others.  It is only by the grace of God that they can maintain their testimony, and they will be the first to fall when persecution arises.

* * * *

And so, God often denies us the very thing we seek (fellowship) until a particular time and season that comes only after a period of seeming isolation; and even then, the fellowship we enjoy is precious because it is so fleeting.  It seems to come and go.  Our spiritual life is constantly tested by these ebbs and flows of fellowship.

But here is an interesting reality: we can only experience true fellowship when we know we can live without it.  The more we cling to fellowship, the more elusive fellowship becomes.  If we can let go of our need for other people, and find our support in Christ alone, it actually prepares us for deeper, more satisfying fellowship and relationship with others.  Getting everything we need from the Lord actually means when we do interact with others, we can support, help, encourage, and give ourselves away to them without expecting or needing anything in return.  Having God as our Source strengthens our relationships with others and puts them (and us) in a much better position: one where we can truly get out of our own world, focus on others, and make better use of the opportunities all around us for really building each other up.

2017-03-06T09:42:26+00:00 By |Ekklesia, Fellowship & Church|

About the Author:

CHIP BROGDEN is an author, teacher, and former pastor who shares "real, simple, truth" about a Christ-centered faith that is based on relationship, not religion. Learn more »

47 Comments

  1. Ann Woods Dec 1 at 10:34 am - Reply

    Chip, I so need this article, but when I printed it all the little pictures were on top of the copy. Is there a printer friendly version I am missing? Thank you for your ministry to the “churchless” bunch. I go in bodily form because of my husband. I look forward to your articles. Ann

  2. Heather Dec 1 at 10:39 am - Reply

    This post was timed perfectly. I’ve been thinking I can return to the box aka church system and I can’t no matter how much I want to pretend to be ignorant. I was just researching home churches in my area this morning.

  3. David H Dec 1 at 11:07 am - Reply

    Chip,
    You’ve hit the nail square on the head with this! It actually addresses some of the turmoil I have felt and experienced the past few years. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Daniel Mosier Dec 1 at 11:21 am - Reply

    Chip thank God the Christ in us all we need and true fellowship will come alive in our hearts.

  5. Mike Parsons Dec 1 at 11:24 am - Reply

    Chip!?!?! Dude!?! I was just complaining to my wife, last night, about how I had been asking God to “show” me / “tell” me where I should “go back” to church!!! The most recent place I’ve attended, a new group forming (whose leader is from this recent place I’ve attended), or the place I attended before this recent place?!?! Hope that makes sense! I GOT NOTHING!!! Woke this morning still “wondering” what I was gonna do … most likely stay home … then I read this!??!? EXACTLY what I needed to “hear”!!! Thanks muchly!
    sincerely,
    Mike Parsons

  6. Wilma Korthuis Dec 1 at 11:29 am - Reply

    Thank you for writing this

  7. Regina Dec 1 at 11:33 am - Reply

    Thank you for reinforcing this message. Every once in a while I feel the void of not attending Church. But I ask the Lord to open the door to a place he would have me worship … but it hasn’t happened. So I am content with just being with Him. This message was very comforting. Thank you and God Bless.

  8. Sharon Dec 1 at 11:49 am - Reply

    I certainly agree with ridding ourselves of the “churchy” religious life; however, the Word of God instructs us to “not forsake the assembling of ourselves together as some have”. The Bible also tells us to admonish, encourage, pray for, and greet one another. People need intimate fellowship with the Lord more than anything else in life, but I do believe we were created to fellowship. No man should be an island unto himself. My husband travels extensively and has for many years so I am all alone the majority of the time; therefore, without the fellowship of others I would be most miserable, and I don’t see where that is either spiritually or emotionally healthy. Just my beliefs here. God Bless!

    • Sheri Sep 14 at 10:48 am - Reply

      Hi Sharon,

      Just stopped by your comment to let you know that you can never be an island unto yourself if you have Christ. He is enough dear. In moments where you feel alone and miserable, speak to Jesus and see if He will not speak back, and satisfy you with Himself.
      Blessings 🙂

  9. Janet Dec 1 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Need more spontaneity. When a small group is told the first Friday of each month is a potluck “fellowship”, people tend to dread and start feeling tied down. Also, at the end of the day, people like being themselves. For some of us, a glass of wine would be nice when “fellowshipping”, as long as it doesn’t make it difficult for someone caught in addiction problems. I repeat, PEOPLE LIKE BEING THEMSELVES, and not being able to is the greatest hindrance to the “F” word.

  10. Paula.harries Dec 1 at 12:37 pm - Reply

    Am with you on this Sharon .God bless you.

  11. Janet Dec 1 at 1:18 pm - Reply

    Hi Chip,

    Laughing because I have resembled so many of those remarks in times past. I attended a church this morning with my husband, but without all the “should & shouldnt’s” of churchianity running around in my head. I actually enjoyed the beautiful corporate praise & worship and the word that was preached was His truth. I’m happy to go with my husband if that is his desire, but neither of us feels any inclination to take it any further.
    Just the other day a sister in Christ wrote to me and said “You MUST find a church that preaches the word and be committed!!” Uh…no, I do not. These days I find other believers shock and CONCERN over our lackadaisical church attendance to be humorous. I used to look down on people like that. We did go through quite a negative decompression time with our bad attitude of “We-want-nothing-to-do with-church-its-all-evil- what’s wrong- with-you-that -you-love-it” etc. God is so good with His patience towards us and His truth that brings us out of our post-church Pharisee attitudes. I know we went through time of thinking we were better than others because now we attend a home church. Same Pharisee in a different hat.
    I just want to thank God for His freedom in this area. I desire to know Him more intimately and to have a reverential fear of His awesome holiness and glory and to LOVE as He loves.

  12. helen Dec 1 at 2:38 pm - Reply

    This article is excellent. At times I feel a little displaced; as all of my friends attend church. But I know that feelings come & go; & we certainly are not to live by our feelings; but by our faith in Christ.

    This article encouraged & reinforced my commitment to continue in seeking a closer & more intimate relationship with Christ; regardless of what others do or don’t do.
    Thank you for your continued faithfulness Chip; God richly bless you.

    Helen
    p.s. wanted to print this article; but the pictures on the side cover the text. Is there a way to eliminate this? Ann Woods on here asked the same question. I have been meaning for sometime now, to ask this particular question. Thanks for any help you can give me.

    • Lee Sep 15 at 11:11 am - Reply

      I just drag and highlight the part I want to print and then copy and paste into my word processor. Too good not to share with my husband who doesn’t like to be on the computer, so I print it out for him to read at his leisure.

  13. Marsha H. Dec 1 at 2:47 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for writing this wonderful article. I have learned overtime that genuine, authentic fellowship is just not something that we humans can find on our own. I have yet to encounter anyone in my city who has been through the things that I have and is outside the institutional structure, as I am. However, I know that Jesus is building His church. I have spent the last 6-7 years “flourishing in solitude”. He has brought some wonderful friends who accept me as I am…completely. This is exactly the place where I need to be.

  14. Steve Dec 1 at 3:53 pm - Reply

    Thanks Chip, I will be reading this again. good stuff man. Steve

  15. Mary Dec 1 at 4:38 pm - Reply

    I do believe that what I had in a church building was not fellowship at all, but something like a hobby club: like-minded people meeting twice or three times a week. The fellowship I experience outside the camp is something quite different, seemingly chaotic to the institution-minded, but in fact orderly, according to what God is doing.
    One thing I notice is that fellowship is mutual in the meeting of born again believers, and that the power and the supply of God is manifest in the spiritual exchange that occurs. If as you say our attitude is to give rather than receive, and if we have something to give that we have received ourselves, then the giving of it visibly feeds the receiver, so that it becomes multiplied and expanded in a spiritual response from them, and then we are fed ourselves by that response, praise the Lord. I have seen this time and time again. The working of God is a fertile thing, like a spreading fire, or a gathering torrent, that there is increase and return as we speak by the Spirit, so that we may not only teach but learn, not only give but receive, not only minister but be ministered to.
    When Jesus miraculously fed the multitudes with loaves and fishes, there was this spiritual supply that multiplied a small morsel into a feast, where all were welcomed and all partook according to their need. As disciples we are active participants in this process, distributing and gathering fragments.
    To exist in a church setting where we cannot participate, to me is death. We have not been called to sit on our bottoms and be spoon-fed by the pastor, who may or may not have anything spiritual to share with us.

    Philippians 2:
    1 “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,

    2 Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

    3 Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.

    4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.

    5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

    6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

    7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

    8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.

    9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:

    10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth;

    11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

    12 Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.

    13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.

    14 Do all things without murmurings and disputings:

    15 That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world;

    16 Holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain.”

    God bless all,
    Love, Mary

  16. Valerie Dec 1 at 6:31 pm - Reply

    This is good stuff and so much has been true in my experience.

  17. Keya Dec 1 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Thanks so much for sharing this article. I can really see how free I am from the “system.” It’s refreshing to see that instead of always needing help I can now help someone else in a Christ-centered way. God bless you and this ministry!

  18. Ken Dec 1 at 10:53 pm - Reply

    Hi Chip,
    Once again my eyes have been open to churchianity and the religious system. This article really pin pointed so many areas where I have participated in this horrible system thinking it was from the Holy Spirit. I love how you wrapped it up with once we agree with God and allow Him to purge out all the garbage and come to a place that Jesus is enough, then and only then can we truly have a functional relationship with God and people.

    • Christy Sep 13 at 4:22 pm - Reply

      Amen Ken!

  19. Kathy from Wisconsin Dec 2 at 12:49 am - Reply

    Chip,
    this article is just confirmation of the things God is showing me too. Fellowship in a church setting seems so shallow and hollow now… I have no desire to return to such things; or activities. Just like when He took me out of the world… I had no desire to return. In fact He has told me that I cannot go back only forward now. To forget the things that lay behind. And press on to the high calling. It is so important to hear God for yourself and He always confirms it; like in this article. And it is fellowship of a sort when you know others are hearing the same things as you. Even if you cannot physically see or be with them… There are times when worshipping alone in my home. that I can actually by the Spirit know my worship is joining others who are worshipping… and it is sweet. I have learned not to worry about those still caught up in church, God has assured me that He knows those who are His, and they will hear the Spirit calling them to come out. We are only first fruits of Gods overall plan of redemption and reconciling all things to Himself.

  20. Fish Dec 2 at 9:20 am - Reply

    There is truth in the article, however, I disagree on several points. True, is that the Church for many is no more than a social club. True, most services are empty, and not corporate worship. It is entertainment of the worship committee. You can’t hear the people for the front singers and band. You listen, you watch and leave. I disagree in that the Church does not meets the needs of the congregation. It is not people centered, it is Church and Pastor centered. It is about meeting the needs of the Church “organization”. It is about making the Church more beautiful, and outside missions. I disagree in that most who go to Church are not self-centered in that for us as members it is about giving out of our pocket and time. If we have a need the last place to get help is from the Church. The most is to be put on the prayer list. With that said, this does not mean all Churches. There are Churches that do preach the Word, and take care of it’s members. There are Churches that encourage true fellowship. I do agree unless you first have intimate fellowship with God on a personal basis can you truly have fellowship with others. Unfortunately most see fellowship as a handshake, or playing games. I wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. I go to Church and I’m blessed by God’s Word taught and by members who walk the talk.

    • Rich Kelley Dec 6 at 8:18 am - Reply

      In time God will clear up the vision to a point that we can see that there is in fact no baby in the bath water, but what was really there was a cloned man made (fleshly) object that we want to call a baby.

  21. Carina Dec 2 at 11:08 am - Reply

    My Bible reading brought me to the following passage in Matthew today:
    Matthew 19:27-30 Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?” And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
    For some of us, leaving organized religion may be just like this passage. It’s not that we don’t want fellowship with brothers and sisters. Indeed, we crave true friendships in the Lord. But we want something real and refuse to settle for cheap imitations. Being so disappointed with people, we’ve discovered fellowship with Christ is vital, irreplaceable. And we want GOD to direct us to Christ-centered relationships, in the simplicity of the Gospel. That fellowship which is indeed precious.
    When I think of fellowship the way GOD wants it, Psalms 133 comes to mind:
    Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
    For brothers to dwell together in unity!
    It is like the precious oil upon the head,
    Coming down upon the beard,
    Even Aaron’s beard,
    Coming down upon the edge of his robes.
    It is like the dew of Hermon
    Coming down upon the mountains of Zion;
    For there the Lord commanded the blessing—life forever.

    I’d been taught that Aaron represented the pastor in a church. Now I’ve come to see that Aaron is a type of Jesus. Coming to Him brings the precious oil of His Spirit, the eternal dew of the Father’s teachings being shared with us as we abide in Him. May He bring us together as precious, living stones. May we experience this unity, which cannot be faked or manufactured.

    • Brian Hennessy Dec 3 at 9:01 am - Reply

      Wonderful article. My wife and I have been “outside the camp” now since 1979 and agree completely that the habit of attending church is an addiction that has its own set of withdrawal symptoms. The institutional church is very similar to a socialistic big government that wants you to be dependent upon it to meet all your spiritual needs, including fellowship. But which robs you of your freedom in Messiah. I call it voluntary slavery.

      Once outside you have to learn to trust the Lord to guide you into those relationships that allow for truly life-sharing moments. And just rest in Him in those “dry” times and not allow the enemy to condemn you. As Chip suggests, true Holy Spirit fellowship can happen spontaneously, either one-on-one in the supermarket or in a regular scheduled “Bible study” where interaction is paramount. We are all “priests” (1 Pet. 2:9) able to minister to each other as God leads.

      It is Jesus’ congregation, his body of called-out ones, and he will build us all up into a “temple” that will one day be filled with the glory of God. But it won’t happen in a religious system no matter how well-intentioned it might be. Because that is a system based on law, and law kills. “It is for freedom Messiah set us free, so keep standing firm and DO NOT be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1).

    • Christy Sep 13 at 4:28 pm - Reply

      Thank you, Carina!! Very well said–all of it!!

  22. ilene wood Dec 2 at 1:05 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this timely word and of instruction. An ear does not hear when it is still clinging to a thing and using scripture to substantiate it, all the while God is correcting us and we are still clinging to that thing, it does us no good. I see where I have gone astray, taken off that straight and narrow path [just a little bit, yet seems like a lot!] of which He was my first love, and gone to follow that ‘fellowship with those of same mind’; it had become a stance, a hindrance to my ‘personal’ walk with Him. Yes, He let me go, to find out for my self how miserable I was, and I could not see! I kept talking to Him, yet, no answer…really. Yet, He was patient and kind with me.

    I see and understand now. To keep in step ‘with Him only’, and not a thing nor a spiritual fad, nor what others think nor want, but what He wants of me for me and for Him. It is true love that truly sees.
    So what if I don’t fit into what others think I should be doing; I follow Him, and He knows me! 🙂 He causes my heart to rejoice! No more sinking into that miry clay that holds me down (in the dumps)! It is true freedom!

    And ‘in Him’ do we find true joy, life, love, and the persistence to keep going. Freedom in Christ, that is what I want. amen.

  23. eve Dec 2 at 6:01 pm - Reply

    well God just put me back into my old fellowship for what turned out to be the last few weeks as the head pastors of the parent church then decided to close it down… the attitude of these pastors was “there is no one suitable within this church to run it.” i would add to my knowledge no one was actually asked in the small church… so then is this parent church’ expression full of Christ’s, no

    most of the congregation are to now attend the parent church, who train leaders and pastors to run and plant other churches in the country… yet not one of the 100 or so people who have attended this leadership training course were interested in keeping a very good small church, that did have genuine love and fellowship with in themselves but also a heart for Christ open.

    members of the little church have been discouraged from meeting in their own right as a housechurch!

    church today… unless you are so lucky… is not good, far from it.

    i am out of fellowship unless i am lead to be otherwise , time with Christ will tell me…

    i tell you the truth i went to a housechurch recently which is basically a family gathering with nan doing the children works for her grandkids, granddad teaching, mum and dad and auntie and uncles and other family member plus a few friends all sitting around a piano or guitar and worshiping god… i had never been to such an open place where God was present before.

    i think God is doing a new thing in our generation and this is a picture of it…

    time to end the fake church institutions that are only interested in our contributions

    i thank God that i have an ongoing wonderful relationship with him outside of church

    seek Yeshua’ face… he will not disappoint you, if you do.

    eve uk

  24. eve Dec 2 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    oh if you were wondering… God put me back into encourage them to met outside of the church, i did…but i am not sure what they will do yet…
    also i helped the worship leader as he was still in a state of shock on Sunday last having just learnt the church was to close… it came as a bolt out of the blue…no clues were given and the poor man was expected to lead worship alone with no support…so i sang… unofficially! as i am not a worship leader… but God put me there to help…and i did… i got some weird looks as a woman leading which was not allowed but i work for God not man!
    the sad thing is that the leader did not discuss this with the church members at all… until the decision was made by the parent leaders in the bigger church
    it’s like being in school..kids do as they are told…. in this little church there were many spirit filled adults of all ages and maturity… but their feelings were ignored…. so the church closed its doors on 1 Dec…. they could not even wait for Christmas to be celebrate.
    Seek Yeshua’ face, he will not disappoint you.
    Eve uk…. It’s all about Yeshua…Jesus everytime

  25. Rüdiger Dec 4 at 3:59 am - Reply

    Hello Chip,

    I find it amazing but I know it’s real. Your posts are always spot on. All Glory to Jesus. Without Him as your Leader, this would all be impossible. Only He can arrange, orchestrate and complete EVERYTHING on EXACT timing, all around the world.
    I’m greatly encouraged by Him, through you.
    Be blessed as you continue to serve our mighty God in this way.
    Blessings

  26. VICTOR ROMERO Dec 10 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    THANK YOU SO MUCH. I NEEDED TO READ THIS.

  27. Stephen Jan 8 at 2:21 pm - Reply

    Regardless of how many times I read and re-read articles such as our need for fellowship I still find myself having to learn the lessons taught in this article over again. It becomes so exhaustive !

    I am still in the learning stage even though I am 65 years old. I lost my wife to cancer seven years ago and miss her more than words can ever say. She “was” my life. I realized she was a hindrance to my spiritual growth when she told me one day, “I am keeping you from growing in the LORD.” I hate to admit it but she hit the nail on the head. I still miss her much though.

    For fifteen years of our marriage I was both a lay teacher and preacher in our local church (small). Out of nowhere the LORD began to strip me of everything I held dear that was not HIMSELF. First my teaching and preaching ministries, then fellowship with other believers, then finally, my beloved wife. Now I am all alone, or at least I thought I was alone.

    Do I miss preaching, teaching, and fellowship? You betcha I do. Do I miss my wife? There are not enough words to answer that question. Yet, I must admit that my attendance in what I call “The University of the LORD” brings me to my knees in utter frustration because I cannot have what I am of the opinion I believe I need in my life.

    Chips’ articles have been more than helpful to me over the past few years as I move towards growth in the LORD. Although I would prefer to have a 4.0 GPA by now I am disappointed to find that I am only a 2.0 GPA student. I think the LORD would grade me much lower though.

    Why do I keep going although it seems hopeless? Because my eyes are centered on the LORD and even though I take my eyes off him occasionally I am determined to KNOW him to the fullest and to MEET him in both this spacetime environment as well as in eternity. Although my memories of my beloved wife will never fade I still am growing closer and closer to the LORD day-by-day.

    I would expect that by the time my moment of exiting my earthsuit comes that I will be more than eager to enter the LORD’s presence like I have never before experienced.

    Just like any addictions one might have I still from time-to-time have a longing to attend church services. Thankfully, it only comes down to longing and not actually attending. Hopefully, one day even this longing to attend church or fellowship will be completely gone from my life.

    I wish I had someone near to me that was in a similar situation so we could share our hearts but to date the LORD has seen fit not to answer my prayers in the way I had hoped. Having the LORD share my wife with me for 35 years will be no comparison when he shares eternity with me. I am very thankful for those things he has shared with me over my 65 years of life.

    Chip does provide a ministry that is more than needed these days of the hungry “religious machine.” The verse of scripture that keeps me focused when I become un-focused is John 17.3.
    Stephen

  28. Sharon Sep 13 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Thank you, brother Chip.

    “You don’t know that Jesus is all you need, until Jesus is all you have.” – Corrie ten Boom

  29. Darrell Sep 13 at 2:18 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much, Chip, for writing and posting this article. It’s so timely! I’ve been seeking the Lord intently for understanding about what I’ve been experiencing lately, and you articulated it perfectly. Total confirmation! God bless you!

  30. James Mal Sep 13 at 5:00 pm - Reply

    I keep wondering where the Word ‘CHURCH’ has come from. What is the meaning of the word ‘ Church.’ I asked many pastors and preachers, nobody knew that. Dear brother Chip, please help me to know this.

  31. Nan Cameron Sep 13 at 5:52 pm - Reply

    Thankyou for your article Chip. It answers a question I asked of God yesterday and also reassures me that the decision I made 5 years ago to walk away from “church” was not wrong, as so many of my Church going friends tell me. It is true that my faith in God has grown exponentially since then. My first port of call if anything goes wrong is God, whereas in the past that might have been only some of the time.

  32. Renee J Mack Sep 13 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    This is indeed an outstanding article defining fellowship and why we search for it. Chip, you nailed it perfectly for all of the reasons you have given. I personally have been not in fellowship for a long time. The lord showed me His reasons for me personally. Among the reasons was a major healing through out my entire being e.g. soul, spirit, body (lots of that), heart(mind), brain. This was much needed for me due to childhood traumas and everything after that for 66 years. It is now He has completed my health in wholeness as in “Shalom”. I have a new identity from Him. He has given me a new name. And now I am getting ready to step into my calling at my tender young age of 66 yrs. young. I find this to be the most exciting time in my life. I too have seen Jesus on The Throne. Also, I have heard His voice since I was 9 years old. Now, I see Jesus on a regular basis touching me on the top of my head. He gives me visions, etc. I could go on and on LOL!! Needless to say, I have had deeper, richer experiences with Him since He pulled me away from meetings, etc. It is only in these alone times with Him we truly develop true, deeper, intimate relationship with Him – which is what He wants from us above all else. Again, thank you, Chip for your extraordinary, in depth writings.

  33. Randi :) Sep 13 at 6:48 pm - Reply

    Very good! We have lived through much of us – it’s true!

  34. Brenda Brown Sep 13 at 7:56 pm - Reply

    Only the Lord can unscramble eggs…That is the only way I can see the current Church ‘system’ working in the Purposes of God in the earth. My sister tells me to “plug in” somewhere and stop complaining about the imperfections…My friends I just ignore when they ask if we have joined a church we “like”….Some tell us we are too choosy and need to be realistic…Yes, it is lonely when you come home from brain surgery and no one comes by with a covered dish, but God has always been faithful…we did not starve….Churches is our town only help those who attend “their” church.. I will testify: Jesus is enough!!!
    In some way, I sense that this isolation is a kind of preparation for the days ahead…We are being hidden away for a season…I believe this will all become clearer to us very soon. God has a plan.
    Let’s “Cowboy Up” and stand with the backbone of the Spirit! Grace and blessings.
    Brenda

  35. Marilyn Sep 13 at 8:16 pm - Reply

    Excellent & insightful. This really helped me as it has the others. One obvious reason that you neglected to mention is that there just are NOT any true “churches” anymore in the main stream. So finding any fellowship when the Lord allows it will always be His doing for He IS building HIS Church! Praise His holy & wonderful name. Thank you so much for encouraging the weary body of Christ!!!

  36. Ken Dawson Sep 13 at 9:13 pm - Reply

    Thank you for this beautiful post it truly says what needs to be said

  37. Shane Smith Sep 17 at 3:51 am - Reply

    I think that this article is very good and I am able to relate on all points. I have lived this one out.
    I understand your bent on shifting our reliance and focus onto Christ. At the same time I know that we all see and know Him in part…we get a better and much fuller relationship with Him as we relate with Him in others. Of course that requires humility of stance and an understanding that the ‘other’ has a substance of Jesus that I haven’t yet related to, or experienced in my own personal devotion to Him.
    Until you can say Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord…
    Without my ‘brothers’, my personal wilderness seasons would have been detrimental…it was on those seasons that I have found meaningful relationships, with Jesus and others. Even though He never leaves us not forsakes us, He had designed us to partake of Him with others.
    Grace.

  38. Amanda Feb 7 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Amen Chip! Truth! Thank you and God bless and thank you Jesus.🙌

  39. Done with Religion Feb 10 at 9:38 pm - Reply

    This is such a simple truth, put our trust, fellowship and complete care and dependence in Christ. Yet this is so hard to do. I know for my wife and me, we left the organized church after 50 some years of being involved. We both came to be so dissatisfied with the man-ordained meetings that we eventually left. We knew that the church system of today was not what God had in mind when he talked about building his Church. After leaving the organization, we felt we had to do something. We had to get into a house church, or fellowship group or start our own group at home. We certainly had a void we felt we needed to fill with another group or another type of meeting. This article points out the truth that what we really need is to focus on Jesus. He is within us and will never leave us, so why is it we feel the need to put that dependence in men? Thanks for this article and pointing out that it is alright not to DO anything, but to focus on our fellowship with God, and let him lead us to what he has for us in his timing.

  40. alison Apr 22 at 6:16 pm - Reply

    A good article for these times. Faith is a process and very often we have to go through the whole ‘religious’ exercise to see that it is a religious exercise, whose roots are embedded historically, but not necessarily according to Jesus. I left spiritual Babylon 28 years ago, only after 8 years in the system. Even when we leave, we need to have extracted from us those religious or church mindsets, which can take years for some people. Many outside camp groups are no better than the church system for that reason. We realize God is everywhere and we learn to live and breathe naturally and spiritually with God and with the world at large. Like Paul before us -the greatest desire for him was to know Christ more – even though he did many great outward things in his life, the goal was chiefly relationship with Christ. It takes out the striving, performance and ambition – we can come into that Hebrew rest, enjoy life, enjoy and love people, and simply enjoy and love God, no strings attached. God provided manna in the desert for the Israelite’s and He can provide the simple manna friendship (fellowship) for us along the road of life.

  41. Jasmin Jan 6 at 8:26 pm - Reply

    Hi trank you so much! All this is such a huge blessing for me. I needed this urgent today. There not enough words to express myself.

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