fellowship IN CHURCH
The fellowship between Christians is an important issue according to the
Bible. This can be seen in the words of Jesus below, where He urged to
fellowship and His prayer that refers to the same issue. He spoke about this
just before leaving this world:
- (John 13:34,35) A new commandment
I give to you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also
love one another.
35 By this shall
all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.
- (John 17:21-23) 21 That they all
may be one; as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be one
in us: that the world may believe that you have sent me.
22 And the glory
which you gave me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
23 I in them, and
you in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know
that you have sent me, and have loved them, as you have loved me.
The Bible teaches about fellowship that it is based on birth, i.e., that
people have been born to be children of the same God. It is not so much a
question of cooperation but that of similar views, but the fellowship of
believers has a supernatural foundation. We "have been all made to drink into one Spirit" (1 Cor 12:13), and the same
Holy Spirit lives in us creating fellowship. People who were formerly separated
by race, social status, sex, or similar issues, are now through Christ sisters
and brothers, members of the same body and they have the same Spirit of
sonship. Therefore, Paul did not urge us to create a fellowship between
believers, but to retain it:
- (Eph 4:3-6) Endeavoring to
keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one
body, and one Spirit, even as you are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one
faith, one baptism,
6 One God and
Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
- (1 Cor 12:13) For by one Spirit are we
all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles,
whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.
- (1 Cor 6:19) What? know you not that
your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which
you have of God, and you are not your own?
- (Gal 3:26,28) For you are all
the children of God by faith in
27 For as many of
you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
28 There is
neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male
nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
Even though fellowship should thus be self-evident, this is not always
the case. The fact is that in the course of history and also nowadays, there
have been several factors that have been an impediment to it (1). The most
important impediments are at least the following:
ARROGANCE TOWARDS OTHERS
Arrogance towards others is
the first separating factor. It means an
attitude that other congregations and people are inferior. We may think that
our own spiritual home is the best, and deem the others as being astray, even
renegades. We may also think that others are not as "mature", "sober",
reasonable or "perceptive": that they are far behind. Another typical feature
of this attitude, which is described well by Jesus' allegory in the Gospel of
Luke, is also that fellowship is built only with those who belong to the same
religious movement. It is based mainly on external forms, a similar view of
creed, common habits and festivals among one's own movement, but there is
usually very little contact with other Christians. Also, visiting speakers
usually come only from the own movement, a natural consequence of the facts
- (Luke 18:9-14) And he spoke this
parable to certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and
10 Two men went
up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
11 The Pharisee
stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank you, that I am not as
other men are, extortionists, unjust, adulterers, or even as this
12 I fast twice
in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
13 And the
publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes to heaven,
but smote on his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
14 I tell you,
this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every
one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be
When we have a proud and
arrogant attitude towards others, there is only one piece of advice: we must
repent. The Bible says "but in lowliness of mind
let each esteem other better than themselves" (Phil 2:3), and this is a good piece of advice that should
be followed. Instead, if we always criticize others and regard ourselves
better, it is an indication that our own spiritual life is not on the right track. It is clear
that this kind of an attitude that goes against the will of God cannot lead to
Criticism seems to be wise but it is one of the basic forms of pride.
When we criticize someone, we actually proclaim that we are better than the
other person. We may be better than others in some way, but if so, it is only
because of grace. Those people who recognize the real grace of God never search
for means to put others down: rather, they find ways to elevate them. As the
old proverb says: "Any fool can kick a barn down, but a skilful carpenter is
needed to build one." (2)
- (Rom 12:16) Be of the same mind one
toward another. Mind not high things,
but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits.
- (Phil 2:1) If there be therefore
any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the
Spirit, if any bowels and mercies,
2 Fulfill you my
joy, that you be like minded, having the same love, being of one accord,
of one mind.
Different creed is probably one of the major separating factors. Such
issues as the date of the rapture, the gifts of grace, music and the view on baptism
can be issues that divide congregations. They can be a large obstacle in the
way of fellowship and cause dispersion if people are unable to live in harmony
and be gentle towards each other, issues of which the Apostles spoke.
We should note, however,
that the worst disagreements and quarrels in a congregation do not, after all, arise from different
views regarding some issues, but they always arise from a hard and judging
attitude. Lack of love when discussing, for example, what is the right kind of
music for the congregation is the reason why most problems occur. God's purpose is for us to love, in
addition to Him, our neighbors more and more, but we do not always want to obey
it. A hard, quarrelsome and loveless attitude towards others (for example, refusing
to love those who have different tastes in music, such as supporters of
Christian rock music, hardened people or bitterness because the leaders of the
church support issues we are unable to accept), is only an indication
of our own spiritual life not being on the right track. If we drive whatever
matter we deem right and the will of God, but we forget gentleness, we are
always wrong before God. It indicates that we have forgotten the most important
thing of spiritual life, love, as Paul said (1 Cor 13:13: …but the greatest of these is charity.)
Wesley wrote in his time:
sick of opinions. Show me a man who is humble, gentle, loves God and people, who
is lenient and bears fruit, in whom there is no partiality and hypocrisy. Let my
soul be in the company of such Christians, whoever they are and whatever their
views. Whoever does the will of my Father is my brother. (…) Fanaticism is
extremely powerful devotion to one's own group or opinion. How unwillingly
people are ready to admit that there is something good in those who are not
always of the same opinion as them. We must not take the matter of God only to
our own group, but we must be glad about goodness, wherever it appears." (3)
following verses also warn about a hard, quarrelsome and loveless attitude.
According to them, if we have "bitter envy", it is actually earthly,
unspiritual wisdom, about which James warned us. We are then in the darkness
and liars. We do not remember that we must be "gentle
to all men" (2 Tim
2:24,25) and not show a hostile attitude towards those who are of a different
opinion (Paul warned about foolish
and unlearned questions, "knowing that
they do engender strifes", 2 Tim 2:23) or who criticize us:
- (Jam 3:14-17) But if you have bitter
envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.
wisdom descends not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.
16 For where
envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.
17 But the wisdom
that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be
entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without
- (1 John 1:6,7) If we say that we have
fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:
7 But if
we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship
one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from
- (1 John 4:20) If a man say, I
love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar: for he that loves not his brother whom he has seen, how can he love
God whom he has not seen?
- (1 Cor 13:2) And though I have the
gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and
though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not
charity, I am nothing.
THE Wrong gift of
distinguishing between spirits
so-called wrong gift of distinguishing
between spirits, an imitation gift of real distinguishing between spirits, is
one of the largest separating factors. In other words, it is a "gift"
where one deems himself "perceptive" and having "reliable
information", even though he is in fact overpowered by such blindness that
he cannot see the work of God in others, but deems it coming from the devil. He
cannot see what God does to help other people; he sees only their faults, not
what is right. He acts like the Pharisees who did not understand the work of
God, but blamed Jesus and said that He is driving out demons by the power of
It is clear that this kind of a gift only produces bad crop in a
usually causes people to be irritated and heated, because it is presented in a
way that kills and does not build. It is possible that this "gift" is the
largest deception among Christians because it often spreads widely through
books and spiritual magazines. Besides, it is
possible for each of us to be overpowered by this delusion because "we know in part"
(1 Cor 13:9). Even great men of God, such as Oswald Chambers and F.B. Meyer,
were mistaken in their time when they did not understand that the Pentecostal
Movement was from God.
Rick Joyner has written well about this
imitation gift. He says that the real gift of distinguishing between spirits
can work only through love. He also says that criticism from a person who does
not love the people he is criticizing should be left unnoticed:
is often connected with the wrong kind of a gift of distinguishing between
spirits which is motivated by suspicion and fear. This false gift looks for
faults in other people instead of seeing what God can do to help these people
go forward. A religious spirit using this kind of distinguishing between
spirits can cause great harm to the congregation. Its actions almost always leave
behind more damage and dissolution than healing, agreement and growth. Its
wisdom comes from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and even though
the information might be true, it is brought out in a spirit that kills.
arises from things like rejection, protecting one's grounds or general
uncertainty. The real gift of distinguishing between spirits can function only
through love. Any other motive distorts spiritual understanding. Whenever
someone condemns or criticizes another person or a group, we must not pay
attention to it until we know that he really loves the person or group and is
committed to serving them. (4)
the paragraph above we talked about the wrong gift of distinguishing between spirits, which is one reason why there are
divisions in congregations and fellowship does not work.
almost similar, problem is that some people have been offended by various
phenomena or dictions because they have not deemed these sober-minded (the current Pentecostal Movement was
also born under similar circumstances). Instead, these may have been regarded
as "upsurges of emotion", "fanaticism" and vain fuss. Many may have behaved in
the same way as Michal, the daughter of Saul, who despised David because his
behavior was not "sober-minded":
- (2 Sam 6:15,16, 20-23) So David and all
the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the
sound of the trumpet.
16 And as the ark
of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal Saul's daughter looked through
a window, and saw king David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she
despised him in her heart.
20 Then David
returned to bless his household. And Michal the daughter of Saul came out to
meet David, and said, How glorious was the king of Israel to day, who uncovered
himself to day in the eyes of the handmaids of his servants, as one of the vain
fellows shamelessly uncovers himself!
21 And David said
to Michal, It was before the LORD, which chose me before your father, and
before all his house, to appoint me ruler over the people of the LORD, over
Israel: therefore will I play before the LORD.
22 And I will yet
be more vile than thus, and will be base in my own sight: and of the
maidservants which you have spoken of, of them shall I be had in honor.
Michal the daughter of Saul had no child to the day of her death.
The description below excellently illustrates this negative attitude
towards feelings. It shows how people can accept feelings in others parts of
life, such as in rock concerts, football matches or other events, but not in
spiritual life. This is strange because the enthusiasm and fuss in these
earthly issues is due to quite insignificant and fleeting issues:
"I do not believe in any kind
of religious ecstasy."
Per built a defensive wall and blocked my words. Then his sister
interfered the conversation.
"Per, it is not fair to say
that. People must indeed be allowed to show their feelings also in Christian
events. Just look at people in sports events or theaters or various concerts! A
couple of weeks ago, the curtain of the Dramaten Theater in Stockholm was opened
approximately twenty times after a performance. The audience stomped their feet
and howled with delight. The applause was furious…"
"Okay. I was also there for
the premiere", Per said laughing and looking at me. He had already heard that
How can we adjust spiritual
activity so that it would not get on the wrong track? Sometimes it is really so
that those people who are in the center
of blessing can ruin everything with their wrong behavior (lovelessness,
rowdiness, fierce eagerness and senseless actions) or emphasis. They can cause
confusion, ruin the faith of others and estrange other people from God because
they are not careful.
The answer to the
previous is that we need above all
followers of the humble and gentle Christ, as Frank Bartleman has poignantly
written in his book Azusa-katu 312 (Azusa Street), p. 133, 134.
He also emphasizes the order of importance where the Holy Spirit and gifts do
not come before Jesus. Whenever we make such issues as gifts, the Holy Spirit,
the revival or miracles and phenomena the main point and put them before Jesus,
we have our priorities upside-down, and this will cause confusion. Then we may
experience the same as the Israelites when they began to worship the bronze
snake Moses had made (2 Kings 18:4), which caused the nation to be lost.
time I wrote a tract, from which I have picked the following fragments: "We
cannot even have a creed and we cannot search for an experience of faith in any
other way than in Jesus. Many of us wish to scrape together 'power' from any
source we can get our hands on, to do miracles and to get the interest and
admiration of people on ourselves. In that way, they take away the honor from
Christ and merely present human deeds. Most of the religious life today seems to
need actual followers of the humble and gentle Christ. Religious enthusiasm
easily spreads seed. (…) Activity that raises the Holy Spirit and gifts over
Jesus will finally end in fanaticism. Anything that makes us praise and love
Jesus is right and safe. The opposite destroys everything. The Holy Spirit is a
bright light, but it is always is directed at Jesus and His appearance."
George Jeffreys also wrote about the same issue in 1933. He emphasizes
how the suitable amount of control over the phenomena is important for the
congregation to stay intact. Therefore, control is not always a bad thing: it
can be important even though we should keep in mind not to quench the Spirit, as Paul warned us (1 Thess 5:19):
has begun - The Spirit comes down from Heaven, the wonderful gifts are proofs
of it, and everything is in motion. Then, we give up the good control which
shocks the wise, and allow power and gifts spread freely. The equilibrium of
the congregation, in accordance with the model of the New Testament, is
shaking, and it does not take long before irrelevant emotionalism comes along,
followed by excessive physical powers, and results in the congregation being
broken to pieces over time. (…) The genuineness of dynamics cannot be
questioned, for there is nothing bad in it. The problems started when no
attention was paid in the need of control that so clearly appears in the Bible.
Those in charge noticed too late that there is no slavery in control in
accordance with the Bible, and neither is there any freedom in uncontrolled
- (Jam 4:11) Speak not evil
one of another, brothers. He that
speaks evil of his brother, and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law, and
judges the law: but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a
- (2 Cor 12:20) For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you
such as I would, and that I shall be found to you such as you would not: lest
there be debates, contentions, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings,
reason behind problems in a congregation and one reason why fellowship vanishes
is slander and gossip. This means that negative words about other congregations
and servants of God are uttered behind their backs instead of just praying for
them. Often the reason for negative speeches can be prayer: "I'm just telling
you this so you would pray for him."
Jealousy can also be a reason
behind slander. This can be seen in someone having difficulty being happy if
someone else seems to be used by God more often than them. They have a similar
attitude as Saul had towards David (1 Sam 18:8,9, And Saul was very wroth, and the saying displeased
him; and he said, They have ascribed to David ten thousands, and to me they
have ascribed but thousands: and what can he have more but the kingdom? And
Saul eyed David from that day and forward.). If you suffer from
jealousy, confess your sin to God and start to rejoice about the success of
Frangipane has written well about this hurtful attitude we may have. He says
to the nature of Satan. He also urges us to respect incomplete leaders because slander
can often be manifested as dissatisfaction with them and their modes of action,
and is probably the most usual reason for breaking of fellowship in a
congregation. (Michael Howard states in his book Tottelemattomuuden
hinta (Prize of Disobedience) p. 29: "Most congregations break or
dissatisfaction occurs in them because someone deems himself better than he
ought and thinks that he can be better than the nominated leaders of the
Perhaps you know people who always have something negative to say about
others, who always point out some negative piece of information about others. I
pray that the Holy Spirit would show us how slander is related to the nature of
The Bible says that by our
words we will be acquitted, and by our words we will be condemned. God uses our
words, even those we say to our spouse or friend in secret, to measure our
obedience to His will. James writes, "If any man offend
not in word, the same is a perfect man, and able also to bridle the whole body." (James 3:2) (7)
So, in order to succeed, we should submit ourselves to incomplete
leaders without being disrespectful towards them. I do not mean that we should
submit ourselves to leaders who have committed serious sexual sins or crimes
deserving imprisonment, but we should not have any difficulty to show obedience
to men and women who are only incomplete.
(…) This does not mean that
you should not worry when you are faced with problems. You can really have good
pieces of advice or even revelation information that can help your leader. But
do not give people opportunities to treat their leaders disrespectfully,
especially in the congregation! If you see a problem, do not follow the example
of Ham. (8)
What is Jesus' advice in a situation where an offence has taken place or
people blame someone for it in their speeches? We can find an answer in Matthew
18. His advice in this chapter is very clear, and according to it we should
always go to the person to resolve the issue. We must get in contact with the
person in question and not spread rumors as facts. According to the advice
given by Jesus, we must talk privately with the person, then together with a brother, and not spread the
issue further. This is important also because many can falsely say all kinds of
evil things about others (Matt 5:11, 2 Tim 3:12, 1 Tim 5:19):
have heard numerous excuses to why Matt 18 is not obeyed. One popular
explanation is this: "I knew that he wouldn't listen to me." I have also
heard this excuse: "If he has a public mission, I have the right to expose
him publicly." This is absurd, because every ministry is public to some extent.
The Lord did not set such preconditions. People who take these kinds of
liberties against the clear commands of Jesus claim that they have the
authority to put words in God's mouth. (...)
If we have disobeyed God's instructions of how to treat a
brother who has made a mistake, we have absolutely no right to speak about it
to anyone. What we may call asking a second opinion, God calls gossip. We
cannot bluff God, and we have to pay a price for this kind of rudeness. His
command was that we first have to speak privately with the person. After that
has been done, we can speak with someone else and only so that we could help
the person who has been guilty of a sin. Our goal must always be saving
our brother from sin, not exposing him. Paul wrote: "Brothers, if a man be overtaken in a fault, you which
are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering
yourself, lest you also be tempted." (Gal. 6:1) (9)
THE FALL OF A LEADER
One cause of dissolution in a congregation may be the fall of a person
who is in a leading position. If this happens to someone who we have trusted,
it can have a negative impact on many and those persons may perhaps leave the
congregation altogether and abandon their faith. Especially sex, money, popularity and crowds, i.e., the sin of pride as a consequence of them,
may cause falls. The congregation may be divided:
Sometimes the factors causing the division of a congregation are
connected with the sins of leaders. Here, I am not referring to minor offences
or faults but sins that are either sexual or break the laws of the society in a
way that can lead to imprisonment.
(…) However, sometimes leaders
fall. Both men and women can underestimate cunningness of the enemy and become
involved in a serious sin. When such sin is finally revealed, it has a
destructive effect on a congregation even to the extent that people go away
from the congregation in large crowds. This kind of division does not come from
the ambition of the people who are leaving but from the failure of the leader.
Both those who leave and those who stay need purification, so that the sheep
could be led back to the blessed presence of God. (10)
these falls be prevented?
At least one piece of advice we have not
always obeyed are the words of Paul in Tit 2:1-5. Paul clearly says that older
women - not men - should help younger women, especially in problems with their
marriage or family. This should be the principal rule. For example, Lester
Sumrall, a well-known person in the Christian circles, dismissed every employee
from his organization who he found in the same room and behind closed doors with
a person of the opposite sex, even if because of pastoral care only:
- (Tit 2:1-5) But speak you the things which become sound doctrine:
2 That the aged
men be sober, grave, temperate, sound in faith, in charity, in patience.
3 The aged
women likewise, that they be in behavior as becomes holiness, not false
accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things;
4 That they
may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their
5 To be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their
own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed.
The second important issue is that responsibility belongs to elders, and
there are always several of them in a congregation. An organization where one
man is over the others or there is a one leader in a country or there is
central management, such as the Pope in the Catholic Church, is not biblical.
Instead, we can see from the Bible that the congregation is local (Rom 16:16, 1
Cor 1:2, 16:1,19, Acts 15:41) and that there are elders in each congregation.
The reason for this is that the delusions will not spread so easily to other
congregations and that work can go on, even if someone falls. Many mistakes and
delusions would certainly not have spread so easily, if we had followed this
- (Acts 20:17,18) And from Miletus
he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church.
18 And when they
were come to him, he said to them, You know, from the first day that I came
into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons,
- (Phil 1:1) Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to
all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops
- (Tit 1:5) For this cause left I you in Crete, that you should
set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city,
as I had appointed you:
- (1 Tim 5:17) Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy
of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine.
Chapter 1 - Lack of after-care