Authentic Fellowship: A Powerful Ingredient for Freedom Living

by J. Chad Barrett

Something phenomenal is missing from many churches. I think that people are missing out on something. I think men in the Church especially are missing out on something.

Jesus came to deliver people, not to establish Himself in popularity and fame. Jesus died for people, not for a facility. Jesus is coming back for people, not for our extravagant local empires. The Church is people. Ministry is people.

I’m convinced that God has created something very special for His people that is very often misunderstood. I’m convinced this is what Christian men are missing.

I believe this special thing draws men, and it keeps men in the local church. It upholds men, enabling us to stand up tall when life pulls us down. It ties a tight bond around us that is permanent, and its bond is strong and thick. It protects. It never yields. It never fails. Its pillars are togetherness, not isolation; godly love, not hate; edification, not tearing down; individuality and unity, not legalism nor division.

It is deep, not shallow. Purposeful, not accidental. It’s a divinely bestowed phenomenon—impossible to accomplish without His power. But its foundation is theSavior, and its finishing touches are ultimate joyIts name is Fellowship, and we must have it. For without it, we will die. The joy, devotion, love, purity, integrity, passion for the gospel, passion for holiness, passion for grace and mercy, and passion for God will dry up, and we will die. The sad truth is that many of our churches already have, and they don’t even realize it.

But we don’t have fellowship because we don’t bring up the obvious about ourselves and deal with it together. We don’t talk about certain issues. We keep silent.

There are obvious things among all of us. We all have the same struggles—lust, desire for power, pride, inferiority complexes, and so on—but we don’t really talk about these things among the church.

When we’re at work, we bring up these topics. You don’t believe me? What do the jokes at your workplace usually involve? Should I make the list of struggles again? I’m willing to bet that the men at your place of employment often speak about lusting, their pride in their positions, and their inferiorities (even if it’s unintentional). And it’s not just because they like to entertain one another with jokes.

I’m convinced many of these are underlying confessions to find out whether or not they are alone in their battles. They realize these are battles because these things never produce the results they really want. These things never satisfy. And men end up feeling alone because they are alone—especially in the church.

In fact, Christian men may be more alone in their local churches than they are at their workplaces. We are individuals on the same road called life, but we are driving in our own lanes.

Where in scripture does God describe this wonderful and powerful ingredient for the Church called fellowship? One of my favorite passages that deals with this is in 1 John:

That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life—the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:1-3, NKJV)

The Apostle John made his point that his letter was about fellowship (I’m convinced the theme verses are 1:3-4.). This wasn’t surface friendship, but authentic fellowship among him, the other apostles, and God.

Notice the pattern in verse 1: we have heard…seen…looked upon…handled. Each word used becomes more intense. John and the other apostles had heard the life (Jesus), they had seen Him, they had looked upon Him (literally, gazed intensely), and their hands have actually touched Him. No wonder these apostles had such an intense, intimate fellowship with God! They grew closer and closer to Jesus as they spent time with Him.

Can you imagine? They watched with awe the many miracles Jesus performed. Their eyes gazed upon Him at His transfiguration. They were glued to Him at His resurrection. They touched His glorified body. They witnessed His ascension!

All the while, they grew more in love with their Savior and more connected with each other. You can’t tell me in those 3½ years spent together these ordinary men weren’t exposed to authenticity among each other and with Jesus where they became intensely connected emotionally, spiritually, and mentally. Yes, these men grew to love Jesus and to love each other.

The principle I get out of this pattern in 1 John is that biblical fellowship among men includes becoming real with brothers with whom we already have a friendship. And, together, we grow closer to our Father with whom we all have a relationship. There is the aspect of quality time spent with other brothers while being authentic, loyal, and committed to each other. The purpose of this time is to give to one another, share with one another, and participate in the lives of one another.

I believe John experienced biblical fellowship with Jesus because Jesus made it Hispriority to get into the lives of John and the other disciples. Authentic fellowship takes initiative. It’s only real when one understands that Church is people because it makes people a priority. Biblical fellowship is entering the life of another, and this allows our fellowship with God to become more intense, as well.

How would you be impacted if you were involved in this kind of fellowship with other godly men in your church?

. . . .

J. Chad Barrett is the author of Journey to Freedom, a book for guys about the beauty of biblical fellowship and its impact on the typical struggles men have. Chad is the Director ofChild Evangelism Fellowship of Greater Houston where his team currently reaches 10,000 children each year with the gospel. He lives with his wife Melissa and 4 children in Houston.

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