Does Fellowship Need a Hall?
In 2 Peter 1:13 Peter writes to us that he considered “it right, as long as I am in this earthly dwelling, to stir you up by way of reminder”. From time to time it is necessary to talk about issues facing the church today. It is necessary for us to know why we are different. It's necessary for us so when we are asked “why is it that you don’t have a fellowship hall?” that we have a logical answer. Because the answer “well we’ve never had one and we’ll never will” won't work with most people.
What is not the issue?
When this issue comes up there is inevitably a lot of misconceived ideas or false arguments made. So for the sake of clarity let us consider what this issue is not about. One, this issue has never been about whether or not someone can eat or drink something in a building owned by the church. If it were then I would eat my lunches in the office. Two, this issue has never been about whether or not the building is sacred. Now by sacred we do not mean that the building does not facilitate a spiritual purpose. What we mean is that the building itself, the plaster, the brick, the timber, etc. is not sacred.
Two Key Principles:
Before we move on I want to establish this point. That is when differences arise, whatever the issue is, our number one problem is that we do not listen to each other. We’ve already made our minds up or we are thinking about what to say next or how to refute this person when we really need to be listening to the other person. We need to keep in mind first and foremost that we fellow heirs of Christ and brothers and sisters who have been saved by the same redeeming blood of Jesus (Romans 8:15-17). So we need to treat each other like that. However, we must not forget that we are still commanded to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:5). We must not forget that there is a singular standard of truth. So on any given issue there is the sound position and that which is not sound. If there were not why else would we have the commands to “retain the standard of sound words..” or why would God have given us Titus 1:9?
By What Authority:
The issue is has been always about whether or not there is scriptural authority to use church funds to build a "fellowship hall" and provide a common meal. So before we go any further let us remember a few things.
- Jesus has all the authority. Every last bit of it. Matthew 28:18-19.
- Because He has all authority we are commanded to do everything by His authority or in His name Colossians 3:17
- We also need to remember that all scripture is the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16), that it contains everything pertaining to life and godliness ( 2 Peter 1:3), and it equips us for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17-18).
So if something is a good work then we should be able to one, find it in scripture. Two, have Christ authority for it. and Three, be able to do it in good faith because "Faith comes by hearing and hearing the word of God."
The Term Fellowship:
Sometimes we hear that fellowship halls are permissible because they are an expedient for fellowship, but an we justify fellowship halls on the grounds that they facilitate fellowship? Perhaps we should step back and consider what does the term Fellowship mean biblically. The Greek word translated to our word fellowship means a joint partnership in something. That is what the word means on its most basic, bare bones level. So looking at scripture what do we find that we can have a fellowship in?
- Partnership in spiritual things (Acts 2:42; 1 Corinthians 1:9; 2 Corinthians 6:14, 13:14; Galatians 2:9; Philippians 2:1)
- Partnership in benevolence to other saints (Romans 15:26; 2 Corinthians 8:4, 9:13)
- Partnership in supporting a preacher (Philippians 1:5)
- Partnership in the sufferings of Christ (Philippians 3:10)
- The Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 10:16)
We do have fellowship in many areas but I would challenge anyone to find an example in the new testament that defines fellowship as Christians meeting together to share a common meal.
Corinth, the exception?
Some have used Corinth to try and justify having fellowship halls and church supported common meals. However this is not a very good example. 1 Corinthians 11:17-22. Lets pause here for a moment. Notice the context. They were not assembling together for “fellowship” or for a common meal. They were assembling together as the church. So again, not for a common meal.
“When you meet together it is not to eat the Lord’s supper”
Now, some latch on to this as they were not eating the Lord's supper, that it wasn't in the assembly. That it was a separate event. But, I would submit to you that the situation in Corinth had gotten to such an extreme point that when they did assembled together it was morally impossible for them to partake of the Supper because of their situation. They had made the Lord’s supper a common meal and because of that made the sacred common. That is why Paul chastises them in the next two verses and has to re-teach them about the Lord’s supper.
Again, some will say “hold up, the problem was that they were abusing the Lord’s supper not that they were having a common meal”. Now we’ll agree with that they were abusing the lord's supper, completely. But you still can’t escape the fact that this was a group that had assembled together as a church and instead of worshiping God, they replaced worship with eating and drinking and stood condemned. You can’t escape that reality in Corinth. So Corinth would not be the example I would reach for if I was trying to prove that we can use fellowship halls.
A Few Arguments:
But there are also a few other arguments we often here that we should examine as well.
- “Didn't Jesus feed the multitudes?” - Jesus did a lot of things as an individual that nobody would suggest we do as a church. Jesus healed the multitudes and turned water into wine, does that mean the church should get involved in insurance co-opts, hospitals, or running a brewery.
- “What about Acts 6:1 or Acts 2:46? What about ‘love feasts’?” - Let’s keep these in their context. Is it benevolence? Is it the Lord’s Supper?
- “You just think the building is sacred” - Again, this was never the issue but we are just trying to use the building for the actual work that God expects us to do.
A Church That Isn’t its Building:
A congregation has truly lost sight of its mission when we become more concern with our building than the spiritual mission of the church. The Jews of old had a building. One with all of the bells and whistles, they were proud of their building, and it was the focal point of everything religion for the Jewish people. To such a point that when it was being rebuilt in Ezra's day the Jews old enough to remember the old temple broke down in tears because it would not be as beautiful as the old one.
Look at John 4:19-24. Our identity should never be wrapped up in a building. Are we going to be a church who limits our work solely within its building or are we going to be a church that does God’s work in the spirit and truth that He would have us do. Are we going to be a church that leaves hospitality to a room or are we going to make the meal and practice it? We should never mistake the liberty of the individual for authorization for the church and vise versa.
Are you wanting to serve God in truth and spirit or are we more concern with this material world? Jesus died for you, to bring you back into true fellowship with God and at the same time free us from having our identity wrapped up in a building.