I was a new believer who had never been to a church “fellowship.” I was also a teenager whose family seldom shared a meal together. We ate on the run, often going through a drive-thru for dinner – so imagine my excitement when more than 100 Baptists brought food to my first “fellowship.” I quickly liked fellowship.
What I didn’t know until later is that New Testament fellowship is about much more than food. It’s about coming together to provoke one another to good works (Heb. 10:24-25). It’s not about retreating from the world to eat; it’s about gathering together to be re-armed for the war. With that goal in mind, here are some ways to strengthen fellowship events:
- Devote time to personal testimonies. Rather than only eat, enlist believers who have endured the battle to share their testimony at some time during the event. Ask them to challenge others to be faithful in the fight.
- Read stories of martyrdom around the world. Most fellowship events are far too inwardly focused. Change that direction by telling the stories of martyrs (see, e.g., http://www.persecution.com). Prepare a map of places of persecution. Show pictures if available. Challenge believers to pray for persecuted brothers and sisters.
- Take time for table prayer. All believers need encouragement at some point. At each fellowship table, enlist a prayer leader who will solicit needs from others, and then give time for believers to pray for each other. That’s a really simple strategy, but most churches miss the opportunity to encourage one another.
- Use the fellowship time for teaching. What better time to talk about what New Testament fellowship should be? Don’t linger long in the teaching, but do explain verses like Hebrews 10:24-25. Remind contemporary believers why fellowship mattered so much in the ancient world. When believers were dying for their faith, they needed ongoing encouragement.
- Plan a fasting fellowship. I know that idea sounds contradictory, but give it a try. Gather together, but don’t eat. Instead, pray for each other. Pray for neighbors and friends who need to follow Christ. Share testimonies. Worship through singing. Encourage each other.
- Have a country-focused meal. Choose an international country, and learn about the needs there. Study about the prominent religions. If possible, learn if missionaries serve there. Focus the menu on food from that country. Teach about the country after the meal. Pray that someone from your church might take the gospel there.
- Invite other believers to join your fellowship via Skype. Technology makes it possible for us to connect with believers around the world. Contact a church planter in an urban center in North America, and give him time to talk to your congregation after a meal. Decorate the room in pictures from that city. Provide table cards with prayer requests about the work. Think about others during the fellowship.
- Have a “friends and family” introduction fellowship. Plan a fellowship specifically for friends and family who don’t attend church. Provide well-designed invitations, being up front about the goal of introducing others to the church. Create a welcoming atmosphere that does not threaten the unchurched, but that also does not neglect the gospel. Invite others to join the family of Christ.
- Sponsor a fellowship meal for the needy. Come together for a meal, but prepare significantly more for the needy in your community. Work with a local shelter to provide at least one meal for its residents.
- Plan a fellowship meal for a sister church. Instead of focusing on self in a fellowship, take the entire meal to another congregation in the community. Feed them, and pray over their leadership. Encourage them with your willingness to work together in the Great Commission.
What other ideas would you add to this list?