There are a lot of things that we think of when we hear the word fellowship, at least in the church setting. We think of being I fellowship with each other at meals, meeting one another at houses, or possibly talking to one another about things that involve the church. What is the purpose of fellowship though? Is fellowship just another word for friendship? Is fellowship a thing that you do with your church friends, but not with your non-Christian friends? For us to learn the true purpose of fellowship, it would be important to look at what Paul had to say about it.
Paul wrote the letter to the Romans early in his ministry and in it he said, “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you— that is, that we may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith, both yours and mine,” (Romans 1:11-12 ESV). In this passage, Paul obviously means that fellowship is a two-way street where all of the people involved are encouraged and strengthened. This gives us a good starting point on understanding what fellowship really is.
Romans was not the only letter that Paul wrote where he discussed fellowship; he also mentioned it in Philippians. Paul is again greeting the brethren in Philippi when he is discussing how thankful he is that they were faithful in Philippi. Then in Philippians 1:9-11, Paul says that he wants them to grow more abundantly and to “approve what is excellent.” This points again to the purpose of fellowship. In this instance Paul indicates that fellowship is challenging one another to “approve what is excellent.”
When we have fellowship with a brother or sister in Christ, it is important for us to remember that fellowship is for us to strengthen one another and also to challenge one another to be better. Fellowship is important for us in our own walk and in evangelism. We need to keep it as an important part of the church and need to strengthen the church with it.