The word “fellowship” conjures up different images in people’s minds. In an informal survey I conducted, I asked individuals the first word they thought of when I said the word “fellowship.” Their responses ranged from, “Ugh,” to “a guy fishing (fellow + ship),” to “potluck dinner.” However, the response that comes close to my understanding of fellowship is that “fellowship is the feeling of home.”
What a Fellowship
Fellowship is the first of four focuses that the General Conference Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Department stresses for a vibrant Sabbath School experience: fellowship, Bible study, service, and mission. But I have observed that many of our members have the same opinions of fellowship as those whom I surveyed:
- They may have a negative experience—“Ugh.”
- No experience: “A guy fishing.”
- A positive experience: “The feeling of home.”
Whatever your opinion of fellowship, I would invite you to consider again what fellowship means in the context of Sabbath School.
In general, people need to connect several things before they can “hear” the Word of God and apply it to their lives:
- They need to connect with the community in which they are studying.
- They need to connect with the people with whom they are studying.
- They need to connect with the topic. Why is this important for my life?
Thus, I believe the component of fellowship within the Sabbath School experience is imperative to optimal learning and transformation.
Ellen White refers to fellowship as “participation, partnership.” What a beautiful description of this special time, a time to participate and partner with God’s people in the experience of learning about God, others, and ourselves within the context of community. I think that’s why, while God can use technology to get the message out to people via radio, television, etc., it’s within the context of fellowship that God can most transform us into His image.
What a Joy Divine
Whenever I am a visiting preacher at a church, I strive to always attend Sabbath School. I find that in entering into the experience of fellowship, Bible study, service, and mission not only feeds my spirit for that day, but it offers the opportunity to more deeply participate and partner in worshiping God. Even on those Sabbaths that I’m in my home church and I’m unable to go to Sabbath School, I feel as if something is missing.
What image does the word “fellowship” conjure up in your mind? I hope it reminds you of home.
Bonita Joyner Shields
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists