I have been sick the past few days. Aside from listening to the New Testament on MP3s, I have been watching useless rubbish downloadable from the MSM. After watching a couple of episodes of The Biggest Loser Families and Survivor Gabon, I was struck by something. People are longing for true fellowship.
Since we in church circles have misused the word fellowship (using it to mean eating with other people whom we barely know), let me define it here. According to dictionary.com fellowship is
1. a. The condition of sharing similar interests, ideals, or experiences, as by reason of profession, religion, or nationality.
b. The companionship of individuals in a congenial atmosphere and on equal terms.
2. A close association of friends or equals sharing similar interests.
3. Friendship; comradeship.
For my purposes, I have condensed this to something simpler. Fellowship is a camaraderie built around a common goal.
In The Biggest Loser, fellowship exists. It was obvious that even though there was a competitive element there was a bigger element of camaraderie. They were all on equal terms of poor health and obesity. They all had a common goal of winning a prize and losing weight.
In Survivor, the fellowship is less because of the back-stabbing nature of the game. But it was there anyway. Everyone had an equal chance. The last three people were a 57-year-old teacher, a pin-up model, and a 40-ish mom. All of them people had the same goal of surviving for 39 days in the wilderness of Gabon.
In both of these shows, the people said that it was one of the best experiences of their lives. I would submit that this was because the fellowship was intensified by the extreme difficulty of the objective. You see this a lot in war movies. The men from different backgrounds are friends for life because of the fellowship that they shared in accomplishing a difficult objective.
So if this is true, is this a missing element in our churches? We tell people in sermons that the Christian life involves sacrifices and will be difficult. Then we proceed to make it as easy and fun and comfortable as possible. But I submit to you that people want to be a part of something world- and life-changing. And if it is difficult, so much the better if you want to build a true fellowship.
I think that church leaders are so nervous about scaring potential converts away that they inadvertantly hamper the growth and fellowship of those already in the fold. In the short term this might lead to more members, but it seems to me that the Church in the US is getting wider without gaining depth.