Fellowship - Lesson 02 - The CoOperative


Fellowship – What is a church?

Lesson 2: The CoOperative

What is a CoOperative (CoOp)?

According to the dictionary a CoOp is a farm, or other organisation which is owned and run jointly by its members, who share the profits or benefits. Essentially a CoOp involves mutual assistance in working towards a common goal.

Many groups of people will form a cooperative and in all likelihood you are probably already involved in one or two of these. If you are not then I would be very surprised.

The principles

As an individual I have a limited amount of buying power. If I go along to the shop, and I ask the price of a certain amount of maize then I will be given a price. My ability to bargain with the shop-keeper will be very limited. If the shopkeeper says that the price is 20,000 /= per bag then generally speaking I will have to pay 20,000 /= per bag. And I will not be able to buy half a bag if I only really need to buy half a bag, as the shopkeeper is unlikely to be willing to divide the bag up. My need for half a bag, or even a quarter of a bag will cost me 20,000 /=.

The first step in a CoOperative is to realise that you as an individual are likely to be going to the same shopkeeper for the same product for the next several years. In which case you have a little more power over the vendor. You can come to an agreement with the shopkeeper. “I will come to your shop four times this year, in that time I will need ¼ of a bag of maize on each visit”. Already you will be at a point of saving yourself around 60,000/= per year in our example. Not an insignificant sum of money!

The second step in a CoOperative is to realise that you as an individual are likely to have a close family that are living in the same house as you. You may live with a spouse, you may have parents living with you, you may have children. Let us assume that you have 10 people living with you. You are now in a position of being able to buy in bulk from the shopkeeper. Instead of buying 1 bag of maize in a year, you now need 10 bags of maize. The shopkeeper will see the benefit that they can gain by you all coming to him for maize, and coming with a single order (as opposed to 10 individual orders). He is likely to agree a reduced price per bag of maize. Let us say that the cost is now 15,000 /= per bag. As a family you are now saving a staggering 450,000 /= per year in our example. You could buy some very nice Katengi for that!

Imagine then, the money that can be saved when you increase the size of your CoOperative to 100 or even 1,000 people!

You, the other members of your CoOperative and the shopkeeper will all benefit. The members benefit financially; the whole environment benefits from less wastage and the shopkeeper benefits by having a known demand for his products. Everyone through mutual assistance benefits by working for common goals.

The Ecclesia as a CoOperative

You may have already realised that an Ecclesia is a group of people that can easily create a CoOperative as above. They can buy commodities in bulk and share them out. And in some Christadelphian communities this actually happens. In fact this is nothing new, the Ecclesia of the first century regularly did this; and the Jewish Synagogues before that (as we shall discuss later).

But when it comes to thinking of the Ecclesia as a CoOperative the lessons do not end on a monitory tone. Ecclesial members work together as a collaborative assembly. When we are baptised we enter into a contract firstly with God: we promise to follow and obey God. And secondly we enter into a contract with the Ecclesia world-wide: with the right-hand of fellowship. The common goal is that each of the members enter into the Kingdom of God, by helping each other along the straight and narrow path that leads to the Kingdom (Matthew 7:14).

Our Co-Operative with God

There are so many things that God wants from us; but here are a few of them:

  • God wants us to be in His Kingdom (Luke 12:32; Eph. 1:5; Phil. 2:13; 2 Thess. 1:11).

  • God wants us to display characteristics like His own and like His sons (John 17:3) - This is why God was prepared to sacrifice His only begotten son (John 3:16).

  • God wants the knowledge of Him to extend from one end of the earth to the other (Numbers 14:21). This is why we preach.

  • God wants our obedience (1 Samuel 15:22).

  • God wants us to worship Him (Psalm 96:9).

  • God wants us to believe in Him (Hebrews 11:6).

Our motivation for becoming a Brother or Sister in Christ should be that we want to be better people, such that we may be more like God, and display those characteristics which He desires – many misunderstand this, instead they get baptised for purely selfish reasons:

  • social security

  • monitory gain

  • the nice singing in the choir

  • or purely because they desire to live forever.

These motives are wrong; and if we realise we are in such a category then we must act very quickly to correct our motivation.

Both parties (God and believers) then have something to benefit from an agreement. When we are baptised we enter into such a covenant (Romans 6). And, both parties should benefit. This is part of our fellowship with God; our agreement.

Whenever we break one of Gods commands, we put ourselves out of fellowship with Him. When we put ourselves out of fellowship with God, then we need forgiveness, because we have broken our agreement with Him. First we must repent (Matthew 9:13; Mark 6:12; Acts 2:38), then seek for forgiveness. This is why we should attend the memorial service every single week. Our repentance is not a one off event at our baptism; it is something that we must continually work at. Baptism does not mean that we are saved. The Bible describes us as living stones being individually prepared for the temple of God (1 Peter 2:4-5).

Our Co-Operative with the Ecclesia

In a similar way to how we make a covenant with God at our baptism, so we make a covenant with our Brothers and Sisters at our baptism; we call this the “Right-hand of fellowship”. The precise practice now held is purely a traditional one; but it is a tradition based upon Biblical practices some of which date back many hundreds of years (Hebrews 6:2; Numbers 6:24-26).

In this act we are promising to our Brothers and Sisters that we will help them along their walk to the Kingdom, and they are promising us the same.

Just as we fail to fully keep in fellowship with God, so also we often fail to keep in fellowship with our Brothers and Sisters. In a similar fashion to our repentance and forgiveness with God, so we must repent and seek forgiveness with our Brothers and Sisters (Matthew 18:21-22).

When we come to the memorial service we are taught to examine ourselves (1 Corinthians 11:28). Before this point it is a good idea to take a look around the room. If there is a Brother or Sister that you are “out of fellowship” with then you should not be partaking of the emblems together – you need to sort out your disagreement first (Matthew 5:24).

Fellowship as a CoOperative in practice

Fellowship is something that we need to be actively involved in. The following list is provided as a set of examples of ways in which we can practice fellowship. This is not an exhaustive list, but it provides some examples of what we can and should be doing:

  • regular attendance at all the meetings that are held

  • sharing thoughts that we have had during our daily Bible readings

  • keeping Ecclesial property clean and tidy

  • respecting one another

  • upkeeping Ecclesial property (not just halls, but making sure shared Bibles are cared for etc.)

  • visiting the sick, disabled and elderly

  • preparing Bible talks

  • teaching the young

  • young peoples activities

  • proclaiming the Gospel

  • holding fraternal gatherings with other local Ecclesia

  • preparing food for the gatherings

  • cleaning the toilets

  • providing articles for the newsletter

  • writing letters to those in isolation

  • sending SMS / Messenger / email / WhatsApp messages to one another

  • talking to those that are lonely

  • praying for one another

  • visiting local Ecclesia that need help with Exhortations or Lectures

It can clearly be seen from this list that every member of an Ecclesia is valuable, and that many of our activities should be seen as part of our fellowship one with another.

Also that our Ecclesia does not just include those who live locally. There is in fact only one Ecclesia and that is a world-wide one. We do not have Ecclesias (plural) as the world has churches. We are a single Ecclesia. Speaking of other local Ecclesia might be grammatically wrong; but it includes our belief.

Life in the Synagogue

The Hebrew term for synagogue is beit k'neset. It means "house of assembly" and thus approximates the Greek word 'synagoge' which also means "assembly." For centuries, the synagogue functioned primarily as the ancient world's place for Jews to assemble.

In the Roman world, the synagogue was the religious, cultural, and social center of every Jewish community. So most cities had more than one: one study estimates that during the time of Paul, there were 365 synagogues in Jerusalem alone. Besides Sabbath services, the synagogue performed a number of functions. The synagogue of antiquity might have struck us as surprisingly "secular" in orientation.

  1. Bible school. Synagogues served as schools for children, for reading and explaining Scriptures at prayer services, and for regular study periods for adults.

  2. Court. In the synagogue, punishment was administered to offenders of Jewish law. Jesus told his disciples they would be “delivered to councils and flogged in their synagogues.” Paul was beaten “by the Jews”—in the synagogues—five times with thirty-nine lashes.

  3. Hall. Josephus, the first-century Jewish historian, describes political gatherings in the synagogue in Tiberias.

  4. Hotel. A synagogue also served as a hostel, with rooms set aside for Jewish travellers, merchants, and the poor.

  5. Treasury. Money was collected in the synagogues for charitable purposes and deposited there. In the synagogues outside Palestine, money was collected annually for donation to the Jerusalem Temple.

In other words, nearly every significant activity of Jewish life took place in a synagogue. It is no wonder Paul chose this strategic place to begin his missionary efforts. Originally, people may not have come to the synagogue primarily to pray or study. They conducted local business in the synagogue, promoting the general welfare of the Jewish community. Accelerated by the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, synagogues evolved to absorb many of the ritual and religious observances of an emergent Rabbinic Judaism. Over time the beit k'neset also became a beit t'filah, a "house of worship," and often a beit midrash, a "house of study," too.

In comparison to this, pause and consider how much your Ecclesial Hall is used. Is it a wasted asset. Africans do not waste assets, nor did the Jews of the first century. Nor do Christadelphians. Our halls (or Synagogues as some prefer) are not to be left to waste, they are the centres where our fellowship takes place. Let us use these properties well in the Lords service. Let the doors always be open and let us show others through our co-operation together that we are united together in the one faith and that we are one family, the children of God.

Literature type
Sub type
English only