Well, the COVID-19 pandemic continues. As I write this today, the first day of September, 2021, I’m told the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in our community is at its high-water mark so far. We are still in this thing, folks. I’m not trying to cast fear, but only help us all to be sober-minded about what is happening.
During the pandemic, people have been live-streaming our church services, and this technology has been a tremendous blessing. People who are older or with certain health profiles have benefited from having some connection to their church. However, please know that live-streaming can never serve as a replacement for attending church in person. In Hebrews 10:24-25 (ESV) we read, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
Today, I’m going to talk about the concept of “Christian fellowship.” This is a misunderstood concept even among some Christians. Some people think that getting together as Christians is fellowship. A hardy conversation about the upcoming Buckeye football season … that’s fellowship, right? Not so fast. In this passage, the writer of Hebrews gives us three elements to Christian fellowship.
First, we must spend time together. Christians are to meet together, and they are to do this on an ongoing basis. It takes time to really get to know people, and it takes time for people to really get to know you. These verses remind us that we are to encourage one another. How can I encourage someone if I never spend the time to get to know them?
Second, we must spend time together in proximity to one another. We are to meet together, according to the writer of Hebrews. God designed us to have communication with each other in various forms. When I speak to someone, I can see them, their mannerisms, their facial expressions, and I can hear their tone of voice. These things all communicate. I cannot get this over an email or a text message exchange. FaceTime and Zoom can help with this, but there is something that is just better about being in the same space. Being able to shake hands, give hugs, and just be together is ideal.
Finally, we must challenge one another. This is the part that often gets left out. The writer of Hebrews tells us that we are to “consider how to stir one another up to love and good works.” Another way to say that is to think about all the ways we can provoke the other person to love and good works. When Christians gather, we often hear a sermon or study the Bible together. These things challenge us to grow. But we are also to realize this; as we spend time together in proximity to one another and we really get to know one another, we are to help each other by challenging the other to grow in their understanding of the love of God and the way of Jesus Christ as it is recorded in the Bible. As we understand more, we should be challenging one another toward actions consistent with what the Bible teaches. This is a beautiful thing.
Maybe you’ve been stuck working from home and worshipping from home. Perhaps that’s the wise thing for you to do right now because of your circumstances. Just realize that you need fellowship (which includes time, proximity and challenge). Seek ways to make this happen. Maybe you can host a small group from your church to come and meet together in a socially distanced way. Our church has in-person as well as livestream options. I look forward to the day when this pandemic passes and we can all gather in our churches for fellowship once again.
Rev. Scott Tiede is senior pastor of Delaware Bible Church.