Lesson 1:EMBRACING HEALTHY RELATIONS AND FELLOWSHIP IN THE CONGREGATION

Lesson Aim
To understand the meaning and importance of Christian fellowship and how it
contributes to holistic relationships.

Lesson Objectives
By the end of the lesson the participant should:
• Understand the importance of having fellowship continually with other Christians.
• Appreciate the benefits that can be drawn from being active in a Christian fellowship.
• Commit to being a part of a group of believers to whom they will give their loyalty, their love and their service.

Introduction
Our English word, “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word, “koinonia.”
Koinonia can also be translated as, “contribution,” “sharing,” and “participation.”
A close study of the usage of this word shows that action is always included in its meaning.
Fellowship, you see, is not just being together, it is doing together! This is a point almost universally ignored by Christian groups today.
Introduction
The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines a fellowship as a “community of
interest, activity, feeling, or experience” and “a company of equals or friends.” As a
verb, to fellowship simply means to spend time with that community or company.
God designed His Church to be a fellowship – not just a community, but a family of brothers and sisters who share God’s ideals and beliefs.
Ephesians 2:19-22
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.“

Our Church brethren can help us improve ourselves.
Proverbs 27:17
“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend” (New Living Translation).
The importance of fellowship in our lives is part of the reason that the people of God are commanded to “consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:24-25, emphasis added).
Every Sunday, Christians gather together both to hear the Word of God taught and to strengthen each other through fellowship.

Opening Discussion
Identify different opportunities for Christian Fellowship.
List activities that can take place in these Christian fellowships.

1. The purpose of fellowship
The fellowship of Christians together is very important, for it is in our unity together that:

i. The believer is encouraged and grows in Christ.
Romans 1:11, 12
“I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong – that is, that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith”

ii. The world comes to know that Jesus was sent of God.
John 17:22, 23
“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know thatyou sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Implication:
Our conversations with our spiritual brothers and sisters and the encouragement we share is beneficial to us. This can also help others and is pleasing to God.

2. Conditions of fellowship
i. A basic commitment to one another.
Without a basic trust there can be no fellowship. The depth of fellowship will vary according to the depth of commitment.
Romans 12:10-11
“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

ii. Our commitment must be based on agape.
Agape is a one way love which loves in spite of, not because of. Such a commitment therefore will not be affected by the other person’s inconsistent behaviour.
John 13:34
“A new commandment I give you: Love one another. As I loved you, so you must love one another.”

iii. True fellowship is Christ-centered.
Our fellowship with one another is founded in our common commitment to Christ.
1 John 1:3
“… And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ.”
iv. Walking in the light.
Our fellowship embraces the need to be open, honest and truthful with one another.
This at times may mean:
• Confessing our own sins to others, or lovingly covering another’s sin.
James 5:16
“Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed….”

Obedience to the light – general and specific commandments God has given.
1 John 1:6, 7
“If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from every sin.”

The removal of any masks or false coverings.
So much of the world’s fellowship is hypocritical – acting out a role, and is not genuine.
1 Peter 1:22
“Now that you have been purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for your brothers, love one another deeply from the hearts.”

v. A genuine interest in the other’s well-being.
There should be no hidden motives of self-gain. Our desire should be to give, not get.
Philippians 2:3,4
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look out not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.”

vi. A willingness to lay down one’s life.
John 15:12, 13
“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.”
Life involves more than physical life. It also includes our material possessions, our personal interests and preferences, etc.

James 2:15-17
“Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.”
This also means a willingness to openly share of one’s self. We can only know people to the extent to which they are prepared to reveal themselves to us.

3. The essence of fellowship
i. Sharing all things.
Acts 4:32-33
“All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all”

ii. Laying down our lives for one another.
Romans 16:3, 4
“Greet Priscilla and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus. They risked their lives for me. Not only I but all the churches of the Gentiles are grateful to them.”

iii. Devoted to serving the brethren.
1 Corinthians 16:15
“You know that the household of Stephanas were the first converts in Achaia, and they have devoted themselves to the service of the saints…”

iv. Being a channel of supply to others in need.
2 Corinthians 8:14
“At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.”

v. Sharing in suffering.
Philippians 4:14
“Yet it was good of you to share in my troubles.”

vi. Sacrificial giving.
2 Corinthians 8:2, 3
“Out of the most severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able, and even beyond their ability.”
vii. Practicing hospitality.
3 John 5
“Dear friend, you are faithful in what you are doing for the brothers, even though they are strangers to you”

viii. Building up and encouraging one another.
1 Thessalonians 2:8
“We loved you so much that we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well, because you had become so dear to us.”
4. Benefits of fellowship
i. Accountability .
Galatians 6:1-2
“Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. 2 Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfil the law of Christ.“
ii. Friendships.
John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

iii. Holistic growth.
Hebrews 10:23-24
“Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.”
iv. Support system.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.”

5. Results of fellowship
The results of fellowship in the early Church were:
i. A fear of God
Acts 2:43-44
“Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. 44 All the believers were together and had everything in common.”

ii. Joy
Acts 2:46
“Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.”

iii. Favour with all people
Acts 2:47
“praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people… ”
iv. Addition of new believers
Acts 2:47
… And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

v. All needs supplied
Philippians 4:19
“And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus.”
iv. Emergence of leadership
1 Corinthians 15:15-16
” More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testifiedabout God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. 16 For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.”

Note:
The principles that are talked about in the church context also do apply in any other contexts whether it be in a school, hospital, market business and other contexts of life in the society.

Conclusion
1 Corinthians 12:27
“Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.”
Fellowship is an important part of our faith. Coming together to support one another is an experience that allows us to learn, gain strength, and show the world exactly who God is. There is a group of people who are church-hoppers and non-participants.
They think the church can make it without them; and they can make it without the church. However, 1 Corinthians 12 makes it clear that every single member of the body is necessary for its proper functioning. Because of the importance of fellowship, no one has the right to amputate themselves from the functioning body of Christ, the local church.