Fellowship - Lesson 01 - What is a Church?


Lesson 1: Introduction – What is a church?

This is the first in a series of twenty lessons, making up a course discussing the fellowship of the Christadelphian community. Originally this course has been produced to be shared via the Ecclesial newsletter in installments. If you are reading this in the newsletter then expect to see lesson 2 in the next newsletter.

In this lesson we will look at:

  • Why this course is being written

  • Who the course is written for

  • What benefits you will gain by reading this course

  • What the main the sections of this course are about

  • How to use this course

  • That big question of “What is a church”?

Course contents

- Section 1: What is the Christadelphian community

  1. Introduction - What is a church?

  2. The CoOperative

  3. A Jewish community

  4. The basis of unity

  5. Acting as servants

- Section 2: Working together

  1. Charity

  2. Decision making

  3. Dispute resolution

  4. Collonialism

  5. Changing ecclesia

- Section 3: The table of the Lord

  1. The emblems

  2. Fellowship with God

  3. Dealing with isolation

  4. Knowing your members

  5. Who owns that hall?

- Section 4: Our activities

  1. Fraternal gatherings

  2. Ecclesial schools

  3. Speaking away

  4. Fund raising

  5. Preaching

Why this course is being written

The Christadelphian community is not a church like any of the other churches that are around it. It is unique in its structure, and unique in its make up. A Christadelphian Ecclesia does not have a hyrarchy of Bishops, Deacons, Pastors, Linkmen, Fathers, Popes, Teachers, Rabbi, Kohan or Priests (in the church sence of those terms; Matthew 23:7-8); no member is more important than any other - “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28), and Christ is seen as the head (Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12).

The closest relative to the Christadelphian community is unsurprisingly that of the Jewish converts of the first centuary A.D. because that is what our community is based upon. (Matthew 4:23, 6:2, 9:35, 10:17; Acts 9:20, 13:5, 14-15, 18:4, 7-8, 26; Rev. 2:9, 3:9). This is one reason why Christadelphians are commonly described as a form of Messianic Judiasm; that is those of Jewish faith in the promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob that believe in the Lord Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Christadelphians are completely different to the Christian Churches around them. This arrangement is most uncommon, and largely misunderstood.

Fellowship is central to this Jewish way of life. It is fellowship that binds Christadelphians together and what makes them into the body of Christ (Eph. 4:12). Each part of the Brotherhood working seperately yet guided centrally by the Word of God (Psalm 119:105), in perfect unity (Romans 12:4-5) based on Bible principles that are commonly believed and commonly accepted as the guiding force in our lives (Jer. 10:23) leading us to salvation (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Elements of such a communal way of life are not readily understood, particularly in an African context. Many of the cencepts of working together for the common good are quite contrary to traditional Church, collonial and native African customs. This course sets out to explain the Christadelphian way of life.

Who the course is written for?

With shame, we have to acknowledge that over rescent years (writing in 2019), particularly in Tanzania, but in other parts of the world too, much of this first centuary Jewish Biblical way of life has been forgotten and lost. We have allowed human thinking to interfere with the pure teachings of the first centuary (Psalms 12:6). As a consequence disunity and disorganisation have crept in (2 Cor. 6:15). Misguided individuals have taken upon themselves traditional Church leadership positions for lack of understanding, desperation and sometimes out of greed.

Much of the error has been down to a simple lack of understanding of fellowship. If we build on a weak foundation, then the building will fall (Matthew 7:26). The result is catestrophic. 2,500 brethren and sisters have been baptised in Tanzania; but instead of there being about 25 Ecclesias of 100 (what we would expect); there is no group with 30 members, most are completely living in isolation, almost exclusively trying to live “lives in Christ” as individuals with no support. Yet we are instructed by our Lord that we need fellowship to get into that Kingdom. We must resolve to understand this subject more fully.

An undertstanding of fellowship, is then absolutely essential if we are to be united together into Ecclesias (Phillippians 2). We need fellowship, so that if we stumble on that narrow path that leads to the Kingdom then our brother or our sister will pick us up (Matthew 7:14).

This course then is for anyone who has any involvement with Christadelphians. Whether young in the Sunday School, whether a contact, a brother or sister, or even an elder in a community of believers. Because we all need to understand fellowship. We all need to be solidly involved in fellowship.

What benefits you will gain by reading this course

Whenever we embark on something new in our lives, we ask the question “what will I gain from this”. If that is the question that you are asking right now, then actually you are missing the point about what it is to be a Christian. Many join Churches for what they can get out of it for themselves. Some even join multiple Churches so that they can gain more and more. This is particularly true in Africa where there are “white men” running the show. Many people join a church to receive charity and good will from the rich “white men”. Very few indeed, join a church for what they can give to others. “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20:35).

It is a Bible principle that Christianity is not about how much money we can get. It is not even about making sure that we are in the Kingdom of God (although it is hoped that this will be the result in our actions). It is about developing in one another the characteristics of God, so that we please the Almighty God (Numbers 14:21; John 17:21) and such that we are at one with Him and with His Son. Christianity is about fellowship!

This course will teach you how to be a true Christian.

What the main the sections of this course are about

This course comes in four main sections:

  • What is the Christadelphian community

  • Working together

  • The table of the Lord

  • Our activities

The titles of these four sections are fairly intuative and self-explanatory. Although these sections do not cover every aspect of the subject of fellowship it is hoped that by the time you have read through all twenty lessons that you will have a much clearer and richer idea of what a true life in Christ requires. Areas discussed in the sixty lesson course such as our choise of jobs, greed, anger and tolerance will be much more obvious to us.

How to use this course

It is common to read a “nice article” in the newsletter, and then we put it down and think. “Hmmm, that was a nice article, I agree with all it said”. Then we put down the newsletter and we forget completely about what it has said. It makes no difference to the way we act, it makes no difference to our lives what so ever (Exod 24:7; Duet. 17:19; Matthew 21:42).

Other times, we pick up the article and we say “Brother X needs to read that article, and Brother X needs to change his life according to what it says” - so often we do not see that it is we ourselves that have to change (Luke 6:41-42).

When we read the words of this course, we need to compare them with what the scripture says (Acts 17:11). If what is spoken here is according to the scriptures (which we believe it is), then we must not forget, and we must act.

True Christianity is about making changes in our lives. It is about fellowship with God.

That big question of “What is a church”?

The Christadelphian community regularly use an anglosized version of the Greek word ekklesia (Ecclesia), not the word Church to describe themselves. This word had an original meaning of "assembly, congregation, council", literally "convocation".

An Ecclesia is a group of believers that are in fellowship with God. We do not speak about a building, we speak about human believers – we are “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;” (Eph. 2:20).

A building yes, but a building made of men and women, in fellowship, lead by Christ Himself.


Swahili Title
Somo 1: Utangulizi – Kanisa ni nini?
Swahili Word file
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English only