Here’s some preliminary thoughts of mine about fellowship ministry and how we may practice it more faithfully.
Drop the narcisism
To practice fellowship more faithfully, we need to fix our eyes firmly God, the object of our faith. A fellowship ministry that focusses on others (the horizontal dimension of ministry) to the exclusion of God (the vertical dimension of ministry) has ceased to be fully cross-shaped. If we’re merely seeking connection with one another, we’d be better off joining a social club. But if we’re practicing Christianity (rather than churchianity) then the Christlike God will be present at the centre of every act of fellowship. κοινωνία (koinonia), the New Testament word which we translate as fellowship, means communion by intimate participation. Authentic fellowship begins with communion in Christ. It’s not me focussed at all.
Drop the pragmatism
To practice fellowship more faithfully, we also need to recognize the practice of fellowship as a spiritual discipline in and of itself, and far more than the means to an end it is sometimes treated like. If we treat fellowship ministries in a utilitarian fashion, as a mere means to keeping bums on seats, we’re at serious risk of corrupting fellowship as a practice. If we focus on helping people to feel safe, secure and entertained, we could actually be misleading them about the life of Christ and the way of discipleship. Fellowship, practiced authentically, can often mean commiting yourself to people whom you have absolutely nothing in common with, other than your common dwelling in Christ. It can mean touching the untouchables and socializing with the unsociable in your midst. Practiced authentically, it may make you feel very uncomfortable at times. It requires the deepest commitment. This is not pragmatic at all.
In essence, I think it’s important to develop a theology of fellowship, a koinoniology if you will, so that we know what authentic practice should look like.