Faith Leader, I have some important questions to ask you, and I want you to be honest. Do you have hundreds or even thousands of followers on social media? You might call them your friends, but are they? Who can you call when you need someone to encourage you or agree with you in prayer? What about those you lead? Do they interact with one another merely through the Internet, or do they enjoy true biblical fellowship?
The Greek word that is translated fellowship in the New Testament is koinonia. It means partnership, participation, social intercourse, to communicate, enjoy communion, and distribution. God wants the church to fellowship together. He created us to interact with other people, not to live in isolation, which is so easily attained today because of access to the Internet.
The Internet – Good and Bad
I am amazed at how life has changed since the Internet became part of everyone's daily life. In some ways, it has simplified life. I can search for exactly what my wife wants for Christmas, read reviews on the best place to purchase it, order it, pay for it, and have it shipped to my house in a matter of minutes. However, the Internet has also had some adverse effects. Suicide is at its highest rate ever in the modern age. Loneliness, depression, and stress have increased with the lack of social interaction; people have social media "friends," but not real friends. Technology is good, but technology alone cannot meet our emotional and spiritual needs.
A recent study from the University of Michigan noted that 50% of parents say that technology interrupts time with their children three or more times a day, and interruptions in parent-child time are associated with behavioral problems in children.
Health Day News reported that the generation that has been raised with the iPhone, iPad, Internet, and constant social media presence has 55-70% more emotional problems and mental illness than the generation before them. Teenagers today spend at least 4 ½ hours a day on their cell phones.
Face to Face Fellowship
The online church has its place, but it can't fulfill the biblical mandate for fellowship.
Hebrews 10:25 says, Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. The closer we get to the return of the Lord, the more face to face fellowship we should have. Fellowship is crucial to revival.
If you want the blessing of God, fellowship is vital because God commands the blessing when we come together in unity. Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! It is like the precious ointment upon the head, that ran down upon the beard, even Aaron's beard: that went down to the skirts of his garments; As the dew of Hermon, and as the dew that descended upon the mountains of Zion: for there the Lord commanded the blessing, even life for evermore. (Psalm 133:1-3)
The book of Acts references the believers gathering together daily to share meals and hear the Word of God. (Acts 20:7)
Two Vital Elements to Fellowship
Amos 3:3 asks, Can two walk together, except they be agreed? Agreement is essential to fellowship, but two people will never completely agree on everything. Even my wife and I like different television shows, yet we walk in complete agreement on every significant issue. Our marriage is peaceful and productive, and that's what God has in mind for all forms of Christian fellowship.
You won’t agree with those you fellowship with on everything, but there are two vital points on which you must be in one accord.
First, both of you must agree that Jehovah is God according to Exodus 34:14 - For thou shalt worship no other god: for the Lord, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God. (Exodus 34:14)
Second, true fellowship happens when two or more people acknowledge that the Bible is God’s Word. How sweet are thy words unto my taste! yea, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path. (Psalm 119:103-105)
Agreeing on the authority of the Bible keeps fellowship healthy. When people consent that God is God and the Bible is His Word, then the Bible becomes the arbiter of every disagreement. In almost 45 years of marriage, my wife and I have settled every conflict by asking, “What does God’s Word say about this situation?” In some cases, we've both had to change our opinion, and that is how our union has remained solid.
Some Advantages of Fellowship
God never told us to do anything for His benefit, but only for ours, so His command to fellowship with one another comes with significant advantages. As I already mentioned, Psalm 133:3 tells us God commands the blessing where people are gathered in unity. Let’s consider a few of the other advantages.
Fellowship allows us to comfort one another. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonian 4:18) A few verses later, Paul wrote, Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
Another advantage of fellowship is power in prayer, as described in James 5:16. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (James 5:16)
James also wrote, Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins. (James 5:19-20) We can help keep one another from walking away from God when we are in fellowship, which is why Satan wants to isolate you. Please don't allow him to separate you from other believers. We need one another.