In church circles we often talk of ‘fellowship’. It’s right we do. Fellowship is a Biblical word. And it’s a far richer word than we often have in mind when we use it.
Paul writes in Philippians 4:14 ‘It was good of you to share my troubles’. The word ‘share’ is the ‘fellowship’ word. In Philippians 1:5, it’s translated ‘partnership’. Each carry aspects of what the Philippians did – they actively, willingly chose to partake in Paul’s struggles. They didn’t keep their distance. They didn’t view it as Paul’s problems. They treated Paul’s troubles as their own – as partners. They look at Paul and say: ‘me too’.
In practise it meant the Philippians gave. In 4:15-16 they ‘sent aid more than once’ when no-one else did. In 2 Corinthians they begged to give from their poverty. Fellowship is radical generosity to ‘own’ others’ troubles and meet needs at great personal cost. It’s the overflow of knowing God’s provision.
Giving like this is ‘good’ (4:14). Not just for the recipient. Paul appreciates their generosity, but in v17-18, he’s not angling for more. He’s ‘amply supplied’. Giving is good for the giver. Owning others’ troubles in v10 is evidence of true faith. Giving financially to meet another’s need is spiritually beneficial for you. In v17, banking language is applied spiritually. Their generosity acts like spiritual compound interest. The more you lean on God’s provision and give to other believers’ needs – the more God enriches your faith. Your giving brings genuine pleasure to God: a fragrant offering that pleases him (v18). It’s Old Testament imagery of the ‘thanksgiving offering’ given to delight the God who has already justified you.
Giving is good. Knowing God’s provision, we rejoice to share in troubles. We rejoice, knowing the one who willingly shared our troubles. Jesus chose ‘fellowship’ with us at great cost.
We’d do well to reflect on such fellowship as we think about our partnership with Corrimal Anglican. We are looking to have a formalised partnership. Shifting from being a church with 5 congregations on one site, to a church with 6 congregations across 2 sites. An amalgamation with a commitment to gospel ministry running from both centres.
We’re seeking this union because of our vision: to see more disciples of Jesus shining as lights in our city. We can achieve this better through ‘fellowship’. We are a bigger church than appears when you scan around at your congregation on a Sunday. Corrimal needs strengthening to maintain gospel witness. We have administrative and human resources to share. As the Cathedral fills to capacity 5 times on a Sunday (God willing) we need space offsite to meet. This will mean change. There will be excitement – with new opportunities to serve and new disciples made; and grief – as some sisters and brothers we love shift congregations. For every one, it’s a chance to ask again: ‘What is the best way for the Kingdom to grow in my life, so that I can be part of growing it in the world?’ It’s our chance to deepen fellowship.
Mark Smith | Senior Minister