Tuesday, 10 May 2011

eFellowship

Photo Credit: Silveira Neto, Flickr Creative Commons
http://www.flickr.com/people/silveiraneto/
Just for fun, I recently asked the question on Twitter if people thought “eFellowship” was an actual “Christianese” word, or if it ought to be. I don’t know what made me think of that. It probably came out of the fact that in recent months I’ve been challenged yet again as to exactly what constitutes fellowship.

We use “e” all over the place today. We speak of things such as eMail, eBanking, and eBooks all the time. Some people have even “met” spouses on eDating networks. We know what these are; they refer to electronic activities, products and services. But what about “eFellowship?” In one sense we often seem to do some form of that, and in another sense, I have a terrible problem with the concept.

I remember my son saying that he was “talking” to friends in reference to text messaging or corresponding on Facebook. Being a little old fashioned, I’d argue back (nicely of course) that what he was doing in no way constituted “talking.” The very word “talking” to me implied a form of face-to-face communication. He disagreed with me, and that’s OK. In retrospect, he was right. We all “talk” on telephones, which also is not a face-to-face communication, and what he was doing was simply the next generation of telephone communication.

However, when it comes to fellowship, what are we talking about? Let’s define the word. When I speak of “fellowship,” I’m thinking primarily about community, and specifically, Christian community. I’m thinking about working and sharing and praying together. I’m also thinking about how we comfort and encourage each other. In speaking of fellowship, I’m thinking of Bible reading and study and music aimed at jointly bringing us all closer to God. I’m thinking of sharing life, and not just a few moments at the tail of some religious service. That is what “fellowship” means to me.

Obviously, then, fellowship is very important. I not only seek it, but I often even crave it. Real fellowship is the life-blood that pumps through our veins (or it ought to be). For me, there is no substitute for that intense face-to-face fellowship. Nothing can compare to that.

Still, we are not always together face-to-face as believers. We are a computer driven and social network based society where we “meet,” albeit electronically, other believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. Though I’ve never met them face-to-face, by regularly corresponding with them on social networks, like Twitter, I’m strangely feeling like I’m beginning to know some of these brothers and sisters a little bit. And if that were true, then how would we best describe that electronic relationship? If in this relationship we share Scriptures, song lyrics and other inspirational thoughts, can we then not also use the word “fellowship” to try and describe our activities? If we are being uplifted and encouraged and blessed by each other, then is that not a form of fellowship? Furthermore, since the activity is electronically based, can one call it “eFellowship?”

So what are your thoughts? What does the word “fellowship” mean to you? Are you comfortable with the word “eFellowship” to describe your online relationships? What is right with the concept? What is wrong with it? I’d love to hear your views.


5 comments:

  1. Will, I enjoyed reading your post. I have struggled with the idea of fellowship in a virtual world for some time. Is it real? If so, how is it different from face to face fellowship aside from the obvious? Is it beneficial for participants? Are there ways of enhancing online fellowship? How important is it to establish a face to face encounter with those you fellowship with online?

    I like the term "eFellowship" and think about it along the lines of pen pals. I am aware of many individuals who have developed lasting friendships through writing letters.

    This subject would make a great study. It could be used to bring into focus the importance of fellowship. It could also be a way of teaching how a fellowship ought to function whether offline or online. For myself I still have many more questions than answers.:)

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  2. eFellowship is not the close Fellowship which God desires us to have with each other. It is to easy to just say something that sounds "Christian" in an eFellowship relationship. No real commitment. Christian Fellowship should have a closeness and commitment which eFellowship can not give.

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  3. Rob & David,

    Thank you for your comments. I also have struggled with the concept of eFellowship for some time. David, you are right in suggesting that there is "no real commitment." That is a very real problem to be sure. You'll get no argument from me.

    However, I am NOT proposing that eFellowship can be a legitimate alternative to genuine face-to-face fellowship. As I said in the post, there is no substitute for that. I was simply trying to define the connection Christians have with each other online. My question remains, despite the potential problems, "can such electronically based activity be rightly called "eFellowship"?

    Rob,you are correct in suggesting that this would make a great study topic.

    Blessings on you both.

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  4. I'm thinking of the way Paul wrote that although he wasn't present with the churches he wrote to he was with them in spirit because we are all united as one in Christ. I think it's wonderful how the distance between us is minimized through a medium like this. Some of Paul's letters (like Romans) went to believers he had never met face to face. I'm thankful for the eFellowship we share. Sometimes it is like a fresh drink in a dry and weary land.

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  5. Thank you for your comment. While I prefer face-to-face fellowship where ever and when ever possible, I am also very thankful for all the wonderful eFellowship that we share. Having experienced it now, I cannot imagine being without it. Blessings.

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