二○一九年五月十八日／五月十九日 Click here for English version
From Life Together to Living in Fellowship
Rev Aaron Chan
During the early days of my conversion, I attended a small group participated by believers of various ages. Then, for many years, I attended youth fellowship of an overseas Chinese church in which every weekly gathering was devoted to Bible study. They were all helpful for my learning in different stages of life. Fellowship in the truth was a common practice. On return to Hong Kong, the fellowship I attended featured a variety of meetings organized by the respective fellowship committee. I was not familiar with planning at first, so I looked up a number of books and handbooks including one by German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. That book was Life Together, but I thought then that it was not really about fellowship life. Later in theological seminary, I read two other works by Bonhoeffer. One of them was about Christian community, Sanctorum Communio, and the other one was Act and Being. His thoughts are profound and indeed not easy to understand.
Bonhoeffer wrote Life Together between April 1936 and September 1938. That was after Hitler came to power in 1933. His theological seminary had been closed for one year when the book was completed. Life Together collected the author's theological reflections on the last years of life together at the seminary. Bonhoeffer says: "Christianity means community through Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ. No Christian community is more or less than this. Whether it be a brief, single encounter or the daily fellowship of years, Christian community is only this. We belong to one another only through and in Jesus Christ" (Life Together, Chapter 1). Specifically, the Christian community is built through sacrament in worship and the teaching of the Word. Life Together is therefore more about Christian community living in fellowship with other Christians instead of the narrow definition of fellowship in small groups.
In the colorful but broken world where we live, church life may seem like a commodity for free selection. People can choose the worship service of Church A, the small group/fellowship of Church B, and the Sunday School of Church C. Nevertheless, what we really need is to build a mutually belonging relationship by spending moments with other believers in communion and Bible study and taking the relationship from church worship to small groups and fellowships, and on to various communities. That is how a mutually belonging relationship in Christ is built in Christian community. In fellowship with others, we will learn the Word of God and put it into practice, watch over one another in love, bear testimony and spread the gospel – all of which God has entrusted us to do.