So the word "fellowship" is always something I've jokingly referred to in my mind as church potlucks. The word just seems to come up when those come around for us good ol' southern baptists: "come join us for a time of fun and fellowship at our church potluck." You get the picture. I've thought about this many times though, feeling like it fits in with a group of Christians just hanging out together, being together, living life together, etc. I always come away from these times feeling very positive and uplifted, thinking about God's hand over such a time. Last night, my Every Thought Captive group met. I came away feeling so overwhelmed with God's love and joy because we truly had fellowship, in every sense of the word.
In Acts, Paul talks about the fellowship of believers. He mentions teaching, eating, and prayer right along with it.
The Fellowship of the Believers
42They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. 43Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. 44All the believers were together and had everything in common. 45Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. 46Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, 47praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
It almost seems like the word is used to mean a group or club of some sort. In this case, it is a club of believers. They share something in common, like any club members would. This club is exciting in that it is open to any that are a part of God's family--that's a really big club! We who want to pursue the heart of God and encourage and be encouraged by others doing the same can simply hang out together and be in fellowship with one another. I've faced the question about Christians meeting together, say to watch a football game, not necessarily to talk about God and whether or not this is fellowship. I believe it is because as Christians, if we are living in a way that is pleasing to God, I think even to watch a football game there would be a positive atmosphere that reflects the heart of God. We might not specifically question others about what God is teaching us, but there is room and freedom for that to occur as well. When I hang out with my Christian friends, even when God is not mentioned, I still feel uplifted. God lives in us and through us and I think there is power in just being together. The thing about this particular group of people is that the thing they have in common is so powerful that when meeting, they can't help but come away feeling so amazed and inspired.
I had this very thing occur last night. As I said, it was our group of eight girls that meets every Monday to go over this book. (Though we had one member unable to attend due to a meeting.) This book in general has produced a real eye-opening experience for us and myself in particular. I've learned things about myself that I didn't realize were there before. It has in many ways contributed to my present broken state as I come before God with my inadequacies. We are officially halfway through the book and halfway done with our 10-week series of meeting. Something really powerful happened and I don't even really know how to explain what it was. God came and moved. Our fellowship by the end of the night had consisted of teaching, learning, growing, confessing, encouraging, praying, and listening. It was hard as we came before each other with our brokenness and shared how we're hurting, but it was so GOOD! With tears in my eyes, I came home and felt so utterly blessed by what took place. I am so thankful for each one of those beautiful girls. I am so blown away that I have made such powerful friendships in such a short time. I'm amazed at God's goodness and saw how glorious he is as he came and met us in our brokenness, as we used the compassion he's put in our hearts as women to be there for each other. To cry with each other. To hold each other tightly and say it's gonna be okay. To give hope and advice from having gone through similar situations.
At the end of the night, we broke off into prayer partners. I was with the leader of our group. I was so thankful for God's placement of that. She is just the kind of person that upon getting to know her, you know that you can come to her if you ever need to talk about anything. I've wanted that chance, and was able to have it last night. In the midst of my brokenness, she had a lot of wisdom for me. It was very uplifting to hear her prayer for me as she prayed for things that I hadn't even mentioned that I was praying for on my own. I love that God puts those things on our hearts without the other knowing. It just goes to show what an amazing God he is! The group concluded and I felt so much lighter, as if a huge burden had been lifted from me.
We all left and Farah and I ended up talking next to our cars, ready to leave but not quite leaving. Jessica came back after going to the store and we were still there talking. We decided to stay at her house where our group meets and make cookies and talk. It was sweet to talk about life plans, listening to God's voice, counseling each other, giving pep talks, and eating hot, chocolate chip cookies. Having left at 7:30am for work that morning, I finally got home after a long and eventful day at 11pm, feeling rested and yes, even at peace with my life. No, things might not be perfect, but moments like these change my focus. I can't help but feel joy in the depths of my soul for the God that I serve and for the friends that he has blessed me with.
All this in just one simple word: fellowship.