By Elder Afton E. Richards, published in The Banner of Love, May 2003
is one of the very important things in the Church.
If you have fellowship, you have a good Church. If there is no
fellowship, then there is nothing worthwhile.
This is indicated in the dealings with the Church at Ephesus in
Revelations. This church was strong
in doctrine, and strong in discipline, but the Lord threatened to remove the
candlestick quickly before they needed to return to the first love, which means
fellowship was low.
I think the doctrine of the Church is a great and wonderful thing and
should attract great numbers of the Lord's people into the Church, yet the thing
that really draws people to a good church is fellowship.
A closeness between the members, a feeling of concern one for another is
an essential ingredient in the church. When
you have it there are very few problems. Or
when problems do arise, they are quickly handled.
But without it, all the works of the flesh take over, and there is a
constant bickering among the members.
There is not the usual strife for leadership and personal glory where
each member loves the other and places the other in preference above himself.
This feeling of love and fellowship and concern felt among the members of
the individual church, should also reach out and involve many churches.
We often refer to the "Cause" by which we mean the many
churches. This could be the
"Cause" in a general area, a state or the entire nation.
It is very essential for all the churches in a given area to have a free
flow of fellowship. This adds
greatly to the benefits of the church. I
think there has to be something wrong when a church isolates another church.
Something has happened to mar the fellowship, and they all suffer from
There are two important factors involved, in order to have a free flow of
fellowship among churches. First,
we have to want fellowship. Sometimes
we see situations where there will be an individual Church that is so
self-centered, it is not concerned with the neighboring churches.
Maybe the pastor is a man with a good personality, and a good preacher,
but if he is not concerned with the "Cause" in general, and operates
his church in a way that he shows no concern for the cause in general, there is
something wrong with this man. If
the man loves the gospel, and loves the church, he should be concerned with the
churches in general all being associated together in peace and fellowship.
He should not be so selfish that he is not concerned with other people.
Why would one church isolate itself from others of the Lord's people
worshipping Him in spirit and in truth?
Churches should covet fellowship between them.
This has promoted a great principle in our nation, and among the
churches. I have visited many churches in many states.
Everywhere I find a common ground and a common fellowship.
This I like, and think it is the link that that helps the Cause of the
This can only be maintained by fellowship, trust and confidence.
It is my strong opinion that each Church has the authority, the power and
liberty from heaven, and in the gospel to function as a church, and to make any
necessary decisions in that procedure. And
each church should exercise these principles.
And each church should respect each of the other churches to do that.
If a church rolls along, and does not adhere to these procedures, she
will soon lose the respect of the other churches and will cause at least a slow
down in fellowship.
Likewise, if one church attempts to interfere in the affairs of another
church, this too will eventually bring about a breach in fellowship.
One church does not like to be "endangered" by another church,
and one church does not like for another to try to enforce outside opinions and
decisions upon them.
Where there is a breach of fellowship between churches, many times over
minor matters, this is usually brought about by misunderstandings - -
misunderstandings which have usually been brought on, or encouraged by tale
bearers, who present half truths, or by people who do not get all the facts,
tell it in such a way that the meaning and situation is changed with the
Many times one church will condemn another church over some matter, when
really they don't even know what the situation is, and they by involving
themselves, eventually create a worse situation, and fellowship really suffers.
Ministers of the gospel are great men.
They have a great work to do, placed on them by the God of heaven, and
they should get into the harness and work at the job of preaching the gospel,
and promoting the spiritual welfare of the church.
But preachers are just men, and sometimes the flesh takes over, and when
it does the Church suffers. In the
days of the apostles there was a strife over who would be accounted the greatest
in the kingdom, and we still have this strife, and this desire for personal
glory today. Men of God should keep this spirit down.
When they don't and let envy and jealousy lead their lives, this always
means troubles for the church. And
it always means tragedy for fellowship.
The sad part about it, when ministers are consumed with jealousy and
envy, they will pick out, or create little things to find fault with other
churches, and work at it, and the only principle involved is they are feeding
their inner envy and jealousy. But
this can be pushed against a minister or a church, and it will bring on trouble,
When people sit down and look back 29 or 30 or more years at something
that seemed so very important at the time, but now when they look at it in a
less personal way, they realize there was no real fundamental principle
involved, except a striving between ministers, and perhaps others, to satisfy
their personal desires to be accounted great in the kingdom.
Fellowship is a great thing. But it does not just simply exist.
It is something we
must work at to establish, and to maintain, and to let it continue. The lifeline of the church is fellowship.
Let us work at it fervently.
- - -Editor
of Love, July 1973
Elder Afton E. Richards was Editor and Publisher of the Banner of Love for over 50 years, and until his death.