In these days of generally declining church attendance, there is an eagerness to welcome ‘into fellowship’ the ‘unattached’ and isolated Christians who now exist in some numbers. Such wide–heartedness, if taken at face value, is to be welcomed, although as ever, it needs to be tempered with the Apostle’s cautionary word “Lay hands quickly on no man, nor partake in others’ sins. Keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5: 22).
The individual Christian is often placed under considerable pressure to ‘join with us’, and this is often accompanied by the expectation that he or she will drop any awkward ‘views’ and simply sign up to the constitution of the company. This attitude betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of fellowship. Fellowship is mutual. The numbers of persons involved are immaterial. Both parties are signing up to the constitutions of the other, even if one party is large and the other small.
Too many labour under the misapprehension that others should join them, when really it is a question of joining together. They have in their minds the notion that a denomination, a sect, a circle or a meeting —call it what you like—is something to be joined. What we find in Scripture, however, is that the Church is composed of all believers. It was into the practical fellowship of that body that Paul desired to be joined (see Acts 9: 26), although he was, as a true believer, already a member. Such a thing would now be impossible, as the Church (as regards its outward appearance) is broken into innumerable pieces. No group today can claim to be the fellowship of God’s Son (see 1 Cor. 1: 9), and any other ‘fellowship’ is worthless. However, as individuals, we can seek to walk in the light of our calling—that is, endeavour to abide by the principles of His fellowship. This is what Paul envisaged in 2 Tim. 2: 22: “pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace, with those that call upon the Lord out of a pure heart”. Together, however, we make nothing corporate in God’s sight that others can join—we will only ever be so many individuals walking together in mutual fellowship.