Dear BPCWAians, Every Sunday, our bulletin announcements remind worshippers of upcoming Bible Studies and Fellowships which are conducted monthly or on less regular frequencies. At the back of the bulletin is a table of the “Appointments For Today and the Week”. Why do we have Fellowship Groups and Bible Studies? Or perhaps you may wonder – does this apply to me, should I attend? Or you may think – I am regular at Sunday Worship service every week, do I still need to be interested in any of these?

What are Fellowship groups? A definition in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the English word “fellowship” as thequalityorstateofbeingfriendly. Another definition in the same dictionary is that fellowship means companionship, company. The world’s idea is simply one of fun and friendships. Christians often adopt the secular interpretation of fellowship and apply it to Christian or church fellowships because of a lack of understanding of what the Bible teaches about Christian fellowship. As such, it is important to go back to what the Bible teaches about fellowship. The first mention of “fellowship” is in the New Testament church is in Acts 2:42. “And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers”. The Greek word for “fellowship” (koinonia) among believers describes a community relationship in which there is 1) sharing and 2) participating in something common. “Sharing” means mutual help and the thing in “common” is the Word of God. So, in biblical terms, fellowships are a community relationship where a group of people help each other and gather to pursue a common interest or aim.

Why do we have Fellowship groups? To answer this, we must go back fundamentally to the Biblical model of koinonia. The commonality that underlies all fellowship groups is that all exist for one important purpose in God’s church – to help us to “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Eph 4:13) and to “grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph 4:15). The objective of every fellowship group must be to help the believers in that group become more and more conformed to the image of Christ. In order to do this, the fellowship groups have the important purpose of teaching every believer more about God, and how to live this earthly life so that they may enjoy the sweetness of fellowship with God and hence with each other (1 John1:3). If we lose sight of this main purpose for fellowships, we lose focus of what God requires of us in Christian fellowship. Unlike neighbourhood community groups, church fellowships are not mere friendships, but are founded upon the deep bonds of promoting and deepening a common faith, based squarely upon the Word of God. Through the bond that we have in Christ, we can mutually encourage and support our brethren in Christ who may be facing challenges that we have faced ourselves.

What is the difference between Fellowship Groups and Bible Studies ? There is often a misconception that fellowship groups have more testimonies and opportunities for everyone to talk and perhaps even just have games together, while Bible Studies are more “serious” and conducted more as “teaching sessions”. But from the definition of koinonia, fellowship groups have the purpose of both 1) sharing mutual encouragement and genuine help while 2) having the central basis of the teaching of the Word. That is why in the NT Church in Acts 2, there was the continuing steadfastly in the Apostles’ doctrine and breaking of bread. Mutual care and the study of the Word are both are founded upon the teaching of God’s Word. Both Fellowship Groups and Bible Studies serve to build up the Christian’s faith and promote mutual care. Both focus on building closer bonds between like-minded brethren who are drawn together based on a commonality of Biblical convictions. For example, at the Seniors’ Fellowship and Men’s and Ladies’ Fellowship, there is the teaching of the Word of God, and there is also a time for interaction and mutual encouragement over a meal. Sunday Lunch Fellowship occurs after the preaching of the Word at Worship. Ultimately, we must remember that these Bible Studies and Fellowships are part of our Christian duty in Hebrews 3:13, “But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin”. Through Fellowship Groups and Bible Studies, closer bonds between brethren can be built up, and the weaker brethren can be encouraged.

Why should I be interested in attending Fellowship Groups? We shall cover this question next week.

Yours in our Lord’s service