A few months ago I was visiting with a person who was trying to better understand the organizational structure of the churches of Christ, specifically the issue of congregational self-governance. She was particularly interested in knowing what would keep the Keizer Church of Christ from going off the deep end theologically since we are not part of a denominational structure. I thought it was a great question, for it showed that she cared deeply about remaining faithful to Biblical truth and it led me to reflect on the healthy connections that we do have with other churches outside our congregation.
I explained to her that although we are not part of an official denomination that has a headquarters, elected officials, authoritative doctrinal statements, and financial oversight, we unofficially belong to a broader group of churches that are very close knit and do help one another in our walk of faith. Normally we refer to this close connection of churches as our “fellowship”. As we learned this past Sunday the word fellowship has many different connotations. It can refer to our relationship to Christ, our connection and relationship to the other members of our local church family, and it can refer to a special relationship we have with Christians outside our particular congregation. Generally, when we refer to the fellowship of churches of Christ, we are using the term to refer to a collection of churches who share a common history, common doctrinal distinctives, common approaches to the Bible and worship, share common institutions, and who actively seek to interact with one another in mutually beneficial ways. One of the amazing things about churches of Christ is that we maintain so many things in common without having an official denominational structure to support and enforce them. The structures and institutions that have helped shaped and mold our fellowship are things like colleges and universities, lectureships, church camps, regional retreats, conferences, newspapers, and other inter-church events.
I was reminded of this common fellowship a few years ago on one of the Men’s Mexico trips. On that trip we experienced the blessing of the broader fellowship within a span of 24 hours. On the way down we slept in a church of Christ building in central California free of charge and were told to just lock up when we left. The next day we worshiped with another church of Christ in San Diego, at which we ran into old friends some of us knew from Cascade College. Finally, the quilting group at that church entrusted us with a car load of blankets to give to the poor in Mexico. All of these things came from being part of a broader fellowship of churches of Christ.
Today let’s take a minute or two to thank God for the broader fellowship of churches of Christ. Thank Him for the way that fellowship has nourished you; thank Him for the legacy of faithfulness in our fellowship; ask Him to continue to bless and strengthen our fellowship in the years ahead.
If you have story to tell about how the broader fellowship has blessed your life, please leave a comment below. Darren