The early church believers serve as our model for Christian fellowship. Indeed, the book of Acts teaches us that “they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42, emphasis mine).
However, in my many years of experience as a Christian, I must confess to leaving a number of Christian fellowship meeting feeling that the time spent was not beneficial or edifying. (As I am writing this, I presume that you too, dear reader, might have felt that way too).
Why? Well, invariably in those meetings, the focus would stray from a Christian one to a worldly one (e.g. food, shopping, or sports).
This problem would usually be the result of one or two more extroverted members having too much influence on the group.
1 John 1:7a (NLT) says: “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other“, and the verse suggests that for true Christian fellowship to take place, all members in the fellowship need to be “living in the light”, or in other words, all members need to be true believers.
Conversely, if one or more members are not true believers, it is difficult — and perhaps even impossible — for a deep and meaningful Christian fellowship to take place.
How can we discern if someone is a genuine or false believer? Well, 1 John 1:6 (NLT) says: “So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth“; this verse suggests to us that a false believer can be discerned by the way that he or she lives. For instance, is this person living for worldly pleasure, or is he/she consistently living to please God?
If you are constantly plagued by feelings of discomfort over a particular Christian fellowship due to an unclean/worldly spirit that you discern to be in its midst, may I suggest that you seriously pray over this matter? One option would be for you to leave this fellowship and to join another one, on the basis of 2 Corinthians 6:14 (NIV), which says: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness?”
1 John 1:7 (NLT) says: “But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, cleanses us from all sin” (emphasis mine). Whether a Christian fellowship is beneficial or detrimental can only be gauged over time, and the key thing to look out for is this: “Is the group generally becoming more holy over time? Or has it become increasingly worldly or sinful?“.
A true Christian fellowship — one in which the Lord Jesus Christ is present in its midst — would become more holy over time since (and as the verse above has alluded to) it is being cleansed “from all sin“.