December 12, 2006

Excellent Book on Christian Fellowship

I mentioned Jerry Bridges's book, The Crisis of Caring, before but after finally finishing it this afternoon I wanted to review it and give it high recommendations. I usually shy away from books with sensational words like "crisis" in their titles because they tend to be melodramatic and fluffy but this one is nothing of the sort. (The book was originally published as True Fellowship, a much better title in my opinion.) If you feel like there must be more to Christian fellowship than coffee and doughnuts, you will enjoy this book. I think the best way I can introduce it is to list the chapter titles and add a favorite quote or two from each chapter.

1. What is Fellowship?
These various uses of koinonia convey two related meanings: (1) to share together in the sense of joint participation or partnership, and (2) to share with in the sense of giving what we have to others.
2. Union with God
Through faith in Christ we are members of His Body. The term "His Body" does not signify mere ownership, as we might say in the expression "his house" or "his car." Rather, it signifies union or an actual attachment, as in the expression "his hand" or "his heart."
3. Communion with God
(Quoting Dallas Willard) "Does our mind spontaneously return to God when not intensely occupied, as the needle of the compass turns to the North Pole when removed from nearer magnetic sources?"

Our emphasis today is on doing things for God, or believing the right doctrines about God. But few believers take time to commune with God simply for the sake of enjoying Him and adoring Him.
4. Fellowship Is a Community
We are in fellowship with all other believers, whether or not we like it or even recognize the fact.

Why does the whole body hurt when only one part is injured? It is because all the parts of the body make up one indivisible whole. And when one part hurts, no matter what the reason, the restorative powers of the entire body are brought to bear on that hurting member. Rather than attacking the suffering part or ignoring the problem, the rest of the body demonstrates concern for the part that hurts. This is the way the Body of Christ should function.
5. Spiritual Fellowship
One of the most important things we can share with one another is the spiritual truth that God has been teaching us, which might be of great help to other believers.

There is an old adage that says, "Words disentangle themselves when passing over lips or through the pencil tips." As we share our thought with others, we learn because we are forced to organize and develop our ideas.
6. Partnership in the Gospel
Christ commands us to go into all the world, and the only way most of us can do that is by participating in the ministries of those who physically go.

(Quoting S. D. Gordon) The greatest thing each one of us can do is to pray. If we can go personally to some distant land, still we have gone to only one place. Prayer puts us into direct dynamic touch with a world. A man may go aside today, and shut the door, and as really spend a half-hour of his life in India for God as though he were there in person. Surely you and I must get more half-hours for this secret service.
7. The Fellowship of Spiritual Gifts
Many people these days are wondering what their gift is, but they are not finding the answer becasue they are asking the wrong question. We should be seeking primarily to find out our function in the Body: the particular task assigned to us by God. We may be sure that God has equipped us, both in natural ability and in spiritual gifts, for the function He has called us to perform.

It's been said that ninety percent of finding God's will lies in our willingness to do it.
8. Sharing Your Possessions
An analysis of the various ways koinonia [fellowship] is described in the New Testament reveals that its most common usage is to indicate the sharing of possessions with those in need.

Sharing materially with those in need is an experiential outworking of the objective nature of fellowship. It is important to remember that all experiential fellowship is based on an objective relationship. We are in fellowship with other members of the Body; therefore, we should work this out in our daily lives.
9. Supporting Your Local Ministry
(Quoting a deacon who was trying to determine a fair and adequate salary for their pastor) "Our pastor is or most valuable asset. He is worth far more than this church building."
10. The Fellowship of Suffering
The universal testimony of those who have suffered for the sake of Christ and his Church is that they have experienced a deep fellowship, an intimate communion with Him in the midst of their sufferings.

Many observers believe that the reason we in the West do not suffer more persecution is because we have accommodated ourselves too much to the world around us.
11. The Fellowship of Serving
One of the chief characteristics of a servant is that he serves downward, that is, to those who by the world's standards are beneath him in position or station in life.

As someone once observed, the true test of whether we are a servant is that we don't mind being treated like one.
12. Social Fellowship
Jesus always seemed to use social occasions to evangelize, to heal, or to teach principles of the Christian life. He did these things in such a way that they never seemed artificial or out of place.
I found it hard to find short passages from this book to quote. Because Bridges builds his theses point by point, most brief passages don't work out of context. The book seems to be out of print currently but it is available used online. But shoot, if you don't live to far from me, I'll lend it to you!

[Edit: It is in print and available at]

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