Though many believers today do not recognize the importance of fellowship or local church involvement, Christian fellowship is essential to spiritual growth. Many aspects of our spiritual lives depend on being together with other believers to encourage, teach, serve, and share life together.
Early Christians clearly emphasized the importance of fellowship. Acts 2:42 notes, "And they devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers." In the early church, "day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people" (Acts 2:46-47). But why is Christian fellowship important?
The New Testament word for "fellowship," koinonia, expresses the idea of being together for mutual benefit. Hebrews 10:24-25 shares this idea, saying, "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." Two reasons fellowship with other believers is important are because it helps express love to one another and it encourages good works.
A third important reason for Christian fellowship is its impact on unbelievers. Jesus told His disciples, "By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35). The love Christians have for one another can influence others toward faith in Jesus Christ.
Still another important reason for Christian fellowship is the ability to pray together. Early believers were committed to prayer, both individually and in groups. In James 5:14-16, elders were called together to pray for the sick as well as for those who had sinned. This required being together.
Christian fellowship is also important for church decision-making. In both Acts 6 and Acts 15, the early church gathered together to make important decisions about the future direction of the church. These required community, prayer, and close discussion.
Christian fellowship is required for baptism. A new Christian cannot baptize himself or herself because it is not a public profession of faith. Christians gather together to celebrate a person's baptism and serve as witnesses of the person's commitment to a new life in Jesus Christ.
Christian fellowship is required for communion, or the Lord's Supper. The Lord's Supper doesn't quite work the same for an online church. This ancient practice requires time together with other believers to remember the blood and body of Christ.