Great question! Before I explain why Christian fellowship is important I want to talk about the term itself. Sometimes over time and with overuse, words get diluted and lose their original meaning. This is the case with “fellowship.”
Someone once joked that fellowship is two people in the same boat rowing in the same direction. While there is some truth to that, a more biblical definition is an inner unity among believers because of their union with Christ, expressing itself outwardly with one another to accomplish God’s will. In short, Christian fellowship is an inner unity expressed outwardly to do God’s will.
To help us better understand what fellowship is, and why it is important, I will use the analogy of an orchestra playing a symphony.
God has composed a symphony called His eternal plan (Ephesians 1:9-11). To play this great symphony He has formed an orchestra called the church. And to each one in the orchestra, God has given a part and an instrument to play called their spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 12). “God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 3:10). In other words, the purpose of the church is to hold God up to the world and display every aspect of His glorious being for all the world to see.
Just as no individual can play a symphony, no one believer can fulfil God’s eternal plan alone. God’s plan requires many working together to show His perfection to the world, and to truly glorify Him. We are individual members. It takes a unified orchestra to play the symphony. When we co-operate together to play the symphony, that is called fellowship. Fellowship is co-participation in accomplishing God’s purpose.
There is an internal unity around who we are—members together of the orchestra, the church. We have a sense of camaraderie with other believers. There is also an external unity—a sense of shared experience as we play our parts and individual instruments, our spiritual gifts, and collectively play the symphony: God’s eternal plan.
Fellowship is important from the perspective of God’s purposes. Many believers think the church can make it without them. But just imagine listening to a symphony where half the orchestra members didn’t show up to play! Likewise, 1 Corinthians 12 makes it very clear that every single member of the body is necessary for proper functioning and for the fulfilling of God’s eternal plan and purposes. Because of the importance of fellowship, no one has the right to remove themselves and not play their instrument in the orchestra.
Fellowship is also important from the perspective of the individual believer, because just as showing up to practice and perform in an orchestra helps maintain and hone our skill as a musician, working with other believers to fulfil God’s plan will strengthen our faith in God and His Word. “Well, my brothers and sisters, let’s summarize. When you meet together, one will sing, another will teach, another will tell some special revelation God has given, one will speak in tongues, and another will interpret what is said. But everything that is done must strengthen all of you” (1 Corinthians 14:26).
Working together to fulfil God’s plan also provides a place for encouragement and opportunities to use our gifts. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near” (Hebrews 10:24-25). When we quit playing in the orchestra we lose an opportunity to use our gift, and we will soon find our passion and ability to play diminished. The same is true of using our gifts in our local church.
Finally, fellowship is important because it gives us the opportunity to obey the Lord in demonstrating our love to our fellow believers “Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them,” (Ephesians 4:29).
Since fellowship is so important what should we do? I suggest two things.
We can practice fellowship by seeing and getting in touch with the big picture and goal of showing God’s glory to the world. We do this in all the many ways He has instructed us in the Bible.
Then, we can take an active part where we can best help by recognizing our spiritual gifts and natural abilities to make the church fruitful by looking for opportunities to serve and play our part in the symphony God wrote.