Published Sept. 8, 2009

Paul's Epistle...

Shelia and I spent the past four days at the Blue Mountain Gospel Music Festival in Lebanon, PA. We had a wonderful time of fellowship with a lot of people from all over the Northeast (including Canada). It was a great time not only to enjoy great Southern Gospel music but also to visit with long-time friends we haven't seen in a year or more. And, of course, we got to meet a lot of new friends.

Although it was a primarily Gospel music event, Shelia and I personally heard so many testimonies about how the songs had touched lives and had ministered to needs. Not only that, the fellowship among believers in attendance was a priceless encouragement to many in their daily Christian walks.

All of this reminded me that Christians are not meant to be alone. Yes, Christ is always with us (Matt. 28:20), and that certainly is a great comfort. But Christians are meant to fellowship with other Christians on a regular basis. The writer of Hebrews cautioned that we as Christians should not forsake "the assembling of ourselves together.." (Heb. 10:25). We need to fellowship with other believers — regularly!

This is why it is so important for Christians to attend church on a regular basis — which is the most common and probably easiest way to followship with large numbers of believers. Ronnie Hinson once wrote a song that called the church the "Soul Filling Station." It's where we can "fill up our tank" each week so we can keep going. That's where you'll find great singing and even "high octane" preaching, designed to strengthen our faith and provide fuel for our daily walk. Unfortunately, too many Christians are "running on empty" because they don't take the time to attend church regularly.

That same verse mentioned above gives us a reason why Christian fellowship is vital. Christians should be "exhorting one another." "Exhorting" is just a $10 word that, in this case, means enthusiastic encouragement in the faith for fellow Christians. Yes, we are responsible to one another. And the early church provided evidence that working through individual problems with help and support from fellow believers in the church was a primary way to do this.

And this body of believers doesn't have to be huge, either. Remember that Christ said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). The success of small groups in ministering to one another is proof that you don't need a huge fellowship. Of course, in heaven's math, just two or three plus Christ is greater than everything else combined.

Now, I know there are some people who have legitimate reasons, especially health-related, for not attending church regularly. This certainly is understandable. But I have people from time to time who tell me that, even though they're not physically unable to go to a church, they simply listen to my radio program on Sunday morning – and that is their "church." Providing a spiritual blessing through our program each week is something we certainly want to do, and I am personally encouraged that the program means so much to such individuals. But I will be the first to acknowledge that it simply can't take the place of in-person worship with a local fellowship of strong, Bible-believing Christians.

If you have stayed away from your local church for whatever reason, please reconsider. If there are problems in that church that you would be unable to help solve, then surely there is another local church where you can worship. You just might find that your new church is where God wanted you all along – and you just didn't take the hint.

One other thought struck me as I was enjoying the fellowship with Christian folks the past few days. If we can so thoroughly enjoy such fellowship with other Christians here, can you possibly imagine what it will be like having fellowship with all the saved of all the ages in heaven (not to mention Christ, Himself)? And this will be a fellowship that will never, ever end!

- Paul

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