Just Fellows?
Off the Wall, November 20,

It was Sunday morning and the congregation of The Church of the Chosen Few was just finishing its worshipping services when the minister proclaimed, “After we sing the last hymn, all members and guests are invited down to our social hall for coffee and donuts. This will be a time of fellowshipping for our brothers and sisters, some of whom may not have been at church lately and may not know some of the new members.

With that, little Betsy Ann, a six-year old youth, well-advanced in her mental age as compared to her physical age, piped up and whispered to her mother, “I can’t go down there. It is just for guys. “Why did you say that, dear?” as most concerned parents may inquire?

“Well, Pastor Bob said ‘fellowshipping.’ That’s only for fellows. It’s not meant for women to go to,” she said.

And even though the paragraphs above were fictitious, I never really heard a good explanation why such a word would be used in relationship to a group of people. I guess I did as many still do – go along with whatever is said and let it go at that.

But many of you, who know me, realize I am never happy with letting it go without doing a little digging. What I found was truly amazing and that is why I thought I’d share my findings with you today.

The first definition in the dictionary refers to “the condition or relation of being a fellow.” Did Betsy Ann have a point?

Investigating fuller, I found the word “fellowship” originated from the transliterated form of the Greek word, “koinonia” which means communion, joint participating; the share which one has in anything, participation, a gift jointly contributed, a collection, a contribution, etc. (en.wikipedia.org).” It identified “the idealized state of fellowship and unity that should exist within the Christian church, the Body of Christ,” states the website.

There we go again. It speaks about the state of fellowshipping. Sounds to me as though it’s all about that guy thing. In all honesty, folks, I never knew what I was getting into when I googled “the derivation of the word “fellowshipping” and discovered where the word originated. I thought I may find a simple explanation whereby I could mention a number of other words that were a bit odd and go from there. But, I think I’ll just stick with this one today.

According to en.wikipedia.org, “The essential meaning of the koinonia embraces concepts conveyed in the English terms community, communion, joint participation, sharing and intimacy. The word appears 19 times in most editions of the Greek New Testament. In the New American Standard Bible, it is translated ‘fellowship’ 12 times…” It means a companion, a partner or a joint-owner. “The common ground by which the two parties are joined together creates an aligned relationship, such as a fellowship or partnership,” it stated.

It was interesting to note the many New Testament references to which this website referred. Here again, it states, “In the New Testament, the basis of communion begins with a joining of Jesus with the community of the faithful. The same bonds that link the individual to Jesus also link him or her with other faithful,” it said.

The chapter of Acts 2:42-47 was the first usage of koinonia in the Greek New Testament. What was shared was the common life of Christian believers. Partial quotes included, “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…”

The word koinonia describes the Communion that existed at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper or sacrament of the Eucharist. We read in I Corinthians 10:16-17, “The cup of blessing that we bless is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? (17)The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ.” When the website noted, “Joining in the Lord’s Supper is uniting oneself with other believers in the objective reality of Christ’s death.” It’s right there – joining with others is fellowshipping. Luke 5:10 speaks of James, John and Simon, fishermen partnering to “catch men.”

“To create a bond between comrades,” the website stated, “is the meaning of koinonia. Fellowshipping creates a mutual bond fulfilling the yearning with fraternity, belonging and companionship. With it comes a close and independent friendship among multiple group members.”

So when Pastor Bob invited people for refreshments, he was trying to create a brethren bond among worshippers.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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