The German word for fellowship is “gemeinschaft.” It’s more than an adjective on the “Fellowship Hall,” or an event that you have after a service. This is not “having a fellowship.” This is a way of doing life together, from eating to hospitality, study, and community. Even the free churches in Germany call themselves a gemeinschaft. It completely encompasses your life, and it’s also part of the fabric of the book of Acts.
I first encountered this word in college. Our BSU group at Samford started small groups that we called, “gemeinschaft” groups. In a tongue-in-cheek way, we said we would “gemein” once each week. We formed them as a way to study, learn, pray, and be together. We also ate constantly. College students—especially Baptist ones—must be fed. Not until I arrived in seminary and read Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s book, Life Together, did I understand fully what I attempted in college.
To paraphrase, Bonhoeffer said that Christian community happens only through Jesus Christ. A Christian needs others because of Jesus Christ. We come to others only through Jesus Christ. In Christ, we have been united for eternity. It’s as if we have cross-shaped lenses on our eyes to see each other because of, through, and in light of Jesus work for us on the cross and the power of his resurrection.
That’s important for all of us trying to figure out why a “friend” on Facebook is no more of a friend than the man in the moon. Or for others wondering why the person I’ve known so long just can’t seem to connect. It just can’t happen without Jesus. With Jesus, things happen among us that we can only attribute to the Lord. Something happens that can’t be summarized in an English word. But our German Christian friends call it gemeinschaft.
When have you been drawn to others because of Jesus?