Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015, has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
Welcome to The Daily Prayer Team messages, each day includes a passage of scripture, a reflection and a prayer. Sponsored by Saint John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL.
If we say we have fellowship with Him while we walk in darkness, we like and do not live according to the truth; but if we walk in the light, as He is in he light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. I John 1:6-7
This unit of our study has focused on our individual participation in the life of the Church. We are hopefully getting a better understanding of what the Church is, what Christ intended the Church to be, what the Church does, and now how we are to participate in the life of the Church. We hopefully have a better understanding of how and why we give to the Church. We hopefully have a better understanding of why we need to worship frequently. The next several reflections will focus on the importance of fellowship, and why belonging to the Church requires more than attending and giving.
In every church, there are people who are part of worship but not of fellowship. There are people who may even attend church every Sunday to worship, but once the service is over, they head to their cars and go about their day. There are people who worship every Sunday but who do not know anyone in their community and no one in the community knows them. They are part of the “worship circle” but not part of the fellowship circle. This happens for one of two reasons. Either they don’t understand that fellowship is an important and necessary component to being involved in a church community, or they have not been invited or introduced to anyone and they feel awkward trying to get involved in anything fellowship related. We are going to talk about welcoming people into the fellowship circle in a future reflection. Today we will discuss more simply why it is necessary to do more than go to church, why it is necessary to participate in fellowship.
Fellowship is more than just socializing. Certainly socializing is part of fellowship, and is probably the entry point on being part of fellowship. Fellowship is the “communion” we enjoy with those in our community. The word for “fellowship” is “koinonia”. “Theia Koinonia” translates as “Holy Communion.” Holy Communion is the “divine fellowship” we enjoy with Christ at the Divine Liturgy. After the divine fellowship, we should enjoy human fellowship.
Fellowship comes in many forms. The simplest form is fellowship at the coffee hour after church. This is where people come together, casually, over refreshments, just to socialize. This is not where fellowship ends though. Through socializing, we start to know the people of our community. We form friendships. We bond with people who have common interests. We learn about people who have unique talents as well as unique needs. Fellowship should then extend to people with unique talents matching up to help those whose unique needs match their unique talents or abilities. For instance, there might an elderly person who is sick and needs a ride to a doctor appointment, and there might be another elderly person who is healthy and has time. Put those two together and one serves while the other is served. That is fellowship.
Fellowship extends to people of the community getting together to celebrate a common joy, like taking in a ballgame. It also includes people getting together to meet a common good, like making food to send to the hungry, or going out in teams to visit the sick.
Fellowship is part of nearly every ministry at the church. Those who sing in the choir should worship together and share fellowship as well. Choir members should look after choir members who need help. Sunday school teachers should look after one another. Philoptochos members should look after one another and so on.
However, no one joins Philoptochos, or the choir or teaches Sunday school if they just come to church and leave. No one can help anyone else if they don’t know the names or needs of others. No one can get help or encouragement if they are not known in the community. To be part of a community means that one not only is part of the worship circle but part of the fellowship circle. It means that there is not only a liturgical role for everyone in the church but a social/fellowship role as well. Because in worship, this is where we lean on God for help. And in fellowship, we lean on others. In worship, we serve God. In fellowship, we serve one another. In worship, we show our love for God. In fellowship, we show our love for one another.
Now on the flip side, there are people who go to church for fellowship and they don’t worship. They come for the coffee hour and not for the Liturgy. They come to socialize and not to pray. They work at the festival but never partake of the sacraments. This is actually MORE wrong than the ones who come to church and don’t partake in fellowship. For before we can love others, we must love God. As I heard it said recently, there is no Church without the Eucharist and there is no Eucharist without the Church. We can’t exist in the Church apart from the Eucharist
Christ gave us two commandments—to love God and to love one another. In a church community, we love God through worship. We love one another through fellowship. Thus worship and fellowship are both important for everyone who is part of the church community.
Let me hear what God the Lord will speak, for He will speak peace to His people, to His saints, to those who turn to Him in their hearts. Surely His salvation is at hand for those who fear Him that glory may dwell in our land. Steadfast love and faithfulness will meet; righteousness and peace will kiss each other. Faithfulness will spring up from the ground, and righteousness will look down from the sky. Yea, the Lord will give what is good and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before Him and make His footsteps a way. Psalm 85:8-13
Make sure that you are part of both the worship circle and the fellowship circle on a regular basis!
The Revised Standard Version of the Bible is copyrighted 1946, 1952, 1971, and 1973 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A. and used by permission. From the Online Chapel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America.
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