READING GROUP

How Can Your Church Have More Loving Fellowship?

JOHN OWEN

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Rules for Walking in Fellowship – John Owen

What are some practical biblical steps we can all take to increase loving fellowship in our congregations?

Rules for Walking in Fellowship gives you 22 guidelines for biblical church life.  This book will help you identify and understand key biblical passages about fellowship. Its concise counsel will also motivate you to want to live out these principles. 

You will learn how to:

  • foster true gospel fellowship
  • better support your pastor
  • have better relationships with fellow church members

1. SPIRITUAL SUPPORT FOR YOUR PASTOR

Your pastor watches over your soul, but you have responsibilities to him too. When the church gathers for worship, you should be there too. You need to be diligent in listening to and living out the Word of God that he preaches. You should also follow the example of his life, as far as he follows Christ. He needs your prayerful support, respect and encouragement. His authority comes from Christ and so you should also submit to it as long as it does not go beyond Scripture. 

2. PRACTICAL SUPPORT FOR YOUR PASTOR

It is only fair and right that your pastor should have the financial support he needs for his family and in order to do his work. It also shows appreciation for the spiritual benefit we receive. Your pastor will also come under attack spiritually and from others. He will often suffer because of the truth. You must stand with him in his trials.

3. LOVING ONE ANOTHER

Love is the essential dimension of all the duties of fellowship; it is expressed in them all. It is based on the love that Christ Himself displays to the Church. Nothing makes the faith more attractive to others than mutual, intense and affectionate love among Christ’s followers. You should take an interest in every one of your fellow members since you belong to the same family. It would be wrong to look down or ignore any of them. Any spiritual gift or role that makes us different from them is not due to ourselves; it is freely and graciously given by Christ. Love will also make us patient towards each other and bear with one another’s faults. When we think of how patient and forgiving Christ has been towards us, we should be ready to bear with His people. 

4. PRAYING FOR THE CHURCH

Every believer has a role in faithfully praying every day for the church to be built up and blessed by God. You need to pray for those with whom you are in fellowship. Pray earnestly for those who are going through a time of affliction. Just like the body feels the pain that any part experiences, you need to express sympathy with other members of Christ’s body. 

5. STANDING BY THE CHURCH

The church never lacks enemies and trials, you must stand with it and for it, no matter what.  Those who persecute the Church are persecuting Christ. False teachers distort Christ’s Word. You need to be on your guard against constant temptations to turn back or turn away. Otherwise it will be easy for you to find excuses in a time of testing under the influence of fear of others. 

6. MAINTAINING UNITY

No duty is urged more strongly or more often than unity. It is based on love. You need to seek the welfare of fellow church members. Division and contention is not appropriate for those who are brothers. You must watch out for those who seek to cause divisions through false teaching and practices.

7. SPIRITUAL CONVERSATION

Don’t waste precious opportunities for speaking about Christ with others and things that will build them up spiritually. You can help others grow in love and knowledge. We only have so much time together, avoid being drawn into trivial conversation.

8. PRACTICAL HELP

You need to show practical love by watching out for the needs of fellow church members. You can bear their burdens and help them in their time of need. They need your support in their distress and affliction; this may be your time, counsel, sympathy or your financial help.

9. BEING ACCOUNTABLE

You are your brother’s keeper. You need to watch out for them with tender concern in case they are tempted to go astray. If they are in danger of this, you need to warn them lovingly. This does not mean prying into people’s lives in order to catch them out. Love does not do that, but neither does it leave people to be damaged by sin. Things may ultimately need to be handled through formal church discipline. Yet you need to take this responsibility seriously and lovingly in the hope that it will not reach that stage.

10. HOLY LIVING

Holiness is a gospel issue. When those outside the church see how we live it should make them honour and not despise the gospel. Holiness shows the reality of Christian profession and builds up the church.  Many do not like the principle of being separate from the sinful practices of the world. But God does command us to be separate in this way for His glory and our spiritual good. Those who will not separate from the world and false ways of worship God has not commanded actually separate themselves from Christ.

SUMMARY CONCLUSION 

This book shows us how to increase loving fellowship by taking seriously our biblical responsibilities to our pastor and fellow church members.  

It all flows from and is an expression of loving one another. That is where we must begin in putting these things into practice. Most problems in congregations arise from and are increased by focussing on ourselves and a lack of love for others. Rather than focus on what we are getting out of church, how can we love others? Many people think of that sentimentally but it is a love for their spiritual good above all. What a difference it would make if we let this influence everything we do and say in the life of the church. 

 

JOHN OWEN (1646-1683) was an English Puritan who served as vice-chancellor of Oxford University and pastor of congregations in Coggeshall and London.  His works have been reprinted by Banner of Truth Trust.

“Everything Owen wrote is worth reading, but some of his books are more accessible than others. This little practical treatise is a great way to meet a great Christian mind as it deals with the most basic elements of the Christian’s life in his church. I have loved reading Owen for nearly thirty years now and return to him again and again, never without profit.  Enjoy this book. And learn from it.”

CARL R. TRUEMAN

 

“A manual on church fellowship which to this day is unsurpassed

W. H. GOOLD

 

Owen’s work continues to stand the test of time [especially] in a day of confusion about church membership and the responsibilities it entails

DAVID WHITLA

 

BOOK OFFER

We can offer discounts and grants for bulk purchase of this book that will make it easier to get started in reading it together. Get in touch to tell us how many you need together with your circumstances and where you are running a reading group. 

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