By Skip Heitzig
In my years as a pastor, I’ve noticed that most Christians are familiar with the New Testament Greek word koinonia, translated in our English Bibles as fellowship. But I don’t think there’s a more overused and undervalued term in the church today. We seem to think we can sanctify any activity as long as we add the word fellowship to it: The Weightlifters Fellowship. The Vintage Car Fellowship. The Left-Handed Basket-Weaving Fellowship. You get my drift.
But true fellowship and community goes so much deeper than just shared activities. Fellowship is sharing the life of Jesus Christ with other believers to stimulate one another to spiritual growth. That might sound kind of dry, but read this testimony from a young woman who was part of Calvary Albuquerque’s trip to Israel earlier this year:
“It’s been approximately five months since my first tour of Israel with Calvary Albuquerque. To say that my life has changed since returning from the Holy Land would be an understatement. I knew that I would see and walk the sites that would bring context to the Scripture I had studied for years. I knew I would sing songs of worship and dive deeper into God’s Word in places some can only dream of. I also knew that I would get to experience these wonders amongst friends. What I didn’t know is that I would go from reading my Bible in black and white to full-fledged color as I began to recall memories, places, and people. I didn’t know that I would have some of the most intimate moments with Jesus as I sang songs of worship in the garden of Gethsemane and prayed for a nation and people to know that same intimacy that I share with my Savior.
Lastly, I didn’t know that when I returned from Israel, the friendships I had formed would continue long past our adventures in Israel. Some of us had known each other for years—others, months—and some had only met at the airport the day we set off on our adventure. By the time we landed back home, none of that mattered. We had walked the streets of Israel together, joined in many meals, and lifted our voices as we praised our God. We had all played a part in each other’s lives over the tour and had even formed an official hashtag that would represent our group #lionsofthetribeofburque. We left for Israel as friends and returned as family—a tribe.
Today, we continue to do life together as we share memories of our tour and create new ones together. I am incredibly thankful for the tour that the Lord so graciously allowed me to be a part of. The impact of the tour has been far beyond what I could have imagined and I know that as time goes on, I will continue to look back on the tour as being one of the most life-changing experiences I’ve had.” —Ashley M.
I think it’s safe to say this young lady discovered how sweet—and sometimes unexpected—our fellowship can be. And it never fails: on every trip of this kind I’ve taken throughout the years (and I’ve taken quite a few!) I’ve seen lifelong friendships, even the foundations of future marriages, form before my eyes. I’ve come to realize that you never know how coming together with other believers will impact and grow your relationship with them. The Lord brings us to certain places at certain times to meet certain people, get to know them, and develop and build community with them. Sometimes it’s more unexpected—and much more blessed—than you could ever have imagined. I think God likes to surprise us like that.
And this is what we were created for. God said in Genesis 2:18 that, “it is not good that man should be alone.” That means He has wired us for spiritual companionship. We need the camaraderie that only community can produce. This kind of fellowship, this true koinonia is sometimes found in the most unlikely places and in the most unexpected ways, but it’s always worth it. The smile that it leaves on your face says it all!