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Melanesian Messenger Online distributed by the
Church of the Province of Melanesia
Bishop David Vunagi
Photo No. : P070714-2
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The Importance Of Fellowship In The Church
by Bishop David Vunagi, Disocese of Temotu
July 14, 2007

[Melanesian Messenger - Melanesia] The church is the institution that teaches discipline, moral and ethical values. It should therefore strive to deliver a strong teaching ministry on appropriate human behaviours to the nation at any cost. However, one thing that is obvious in the Church today is the absence of fellowship. I think that is one factor that has greatly affected the mission of the church to the nation.

The Church has been fragmented and that process is continuing. But the reasons for the fragmentation of the Church are not doctrinal or theological. Nor is it about the faith in Jesus Christ. The reasons are materialism oriented, prejudice and craving for power.

Sadly, the fragmentation of the Church is not a sign of growth. Rather it is a backward-looking phenomenon. It reflects narrow-mindedness, ignorance and pride. And that has contributed to the weak mission of the church to the nation. People have been divided into small pockets of religious alliances and they isolate themselves from the fellowship of the Church. They are indulged with emotion so they have a refracted knowledge of the truth. Because of that many members of the fragmented groups are now just sitting in the fence and totally confused.

To help us understand the problems of fragmentation in the Church today, let us go back to basics. If we carefully study the New Testament we would discover that division or fragmentation was not found in the early Church. As soon as the first signs of fragmentation appeared the leaders of the church worked hard to appease them. Paul advised the people of Corinth not to entertain fragmentation in the Church but to "be completely united, with only one thought and one purpose." (1Cor.1:10b). Paul said that Christ could not be divided into groups.

Claimed revealed knowledge of the bible has also been used to justify fragmentation in the Church. However, it is my conviction that true revealed knowledge of the bible does not condone fragmentation. The problem that many people have is that they read the bible without internalising it. Such people even undermine the importance of intellectual knowledge and claim to posses revealed knowledge. I believe, intellectual and revealed knowledge cannot go without the other. We need to study the bible with open mind in order to appreciate its deeper meanings.

We need to be firm in our understanding of the scriptures, the Christian faith and the accepted traditions of the Church. That will help us to stand against the evils of fragmentation and division in the Church today.

The Church today needs to recover the component of fellowship to help its members to draw support and strength. Fellowship was one of the strongest components of the early Church. As a result the Church delivered a strong mission and imparts a strong influence on moral and ethical values.

Finally, we must understand that during his earthly ministry, Jesus used fellowship to bring people to God and to each other. Christian fellowship is the life of all people in the body of Christ. And fellowship is not only between people and God but also between people and people. The way forward for the mission of the Church is to mend the fragmentation and then recover fellowship the important component of Christianity. That is possible if we are true Disciples of Christ.

God bless the mission of the Church in this nation.