The Need for Fellowship
Fellowship: The state of sharing mutual interests, experiences, activities, etc.; companionship; friendship
As an introvert, spending time along come quite easily for me. As a writer, aloneness is often required for productivity. Even though my career and personality promote solitude, and I really do like peace and quiet, I cannot escape the need for regular connection. If I go too long without it, which happens more than I care to admit, I become discouraged and depressed almost without realizing it’s happening.
Everyone needs connection, whether they admit – or realize – it or not; in fact, it’s one of the primary ways God encourages believers. Not only does God encourage us through the Bible and through his Holy Spirit, he also encourages us through other believers in the form of fellowship.
Encouragement Through Fellowship
The Bible says quite a lot about encouragement, and much of it focuses in on the encouragement received through fellowship. For example, encouragement through fellowship:
- Promotes watchfulness as Jesus’ return nears. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-11; Hebrews 10:24-25)
- Defeats selfishness as we seek to build others up. (Romans 15:1-2)
- Creates unity among believers. (Romans 15:5-6)
- Provides opportunity to use spiritual gifts. (Romans 12:6-7)
- Glorifies God. (Romans 12:8-9)
While I believe each of these to be accurate simply because I trust the inerrancy of God’s word, experiencing encouragement in action takes this knowledge to a more encouraging level.
A man in the early church named Joseph was given the nickname Barnabus, whose name means “son of encouragement.” Barnabas encouraged Paul by helping him gain acceptance into the church even after he persecuted it (Acts 9:27). Barnabas also encouraged Mark by helping him gain a second chance after serious failure (Acts 13:13; Acts 15:39).
While I love how Barbabas encouraged others by helping them move forward after serious mistakes, I love even more that he was willing to take a back seat to others. When others give of themselves for our benefits, we are encouraged. When they put their reputation on the line, that usually provides motivation for doing our best.
If you look at the list above for how believers receive encouragement through fellowship, it’s not hard to see how Barnabas lived out each of them. I’m pretty sure, based on the Barnabas’ in my own life and that I’ve watched in the lives of others, that he not only encouraged those he was directly involved with but also anyone who witnessed him in action. Encouragement has a tremendous ripple effect after all.
Solidifying the Truth
So even though spending time alone comes quite naturally for me and in fact energizes me in ways that extroverts cannot understand, I also know that being with others is essential for my spiritual health. While I read Scripture that tells me how and why encouragement comes through others, it’s the actual encouragement in action that solidifies my belief in this truth.