The infusion of fellowship
After the typically long list of ambiguous and awkward terms at last year’s Scripps National Spelling Bee championships, the final word rang familiar to Christian viewers. The winning word for the bee’s champion, 14-year-old speller Karthik Nemmani, was koinonia.1
Koinonia is a Greek word defined as “spiritual community.” We have discovered that fellowship is not just one of the four goals of Sabbath School; fellowship infuses all the other goals.
Fellowship—Embrace the Lord’s church
John does something rather strange in 1 John 1:3–6. He mentions human fellowship before he proceeds to fellowship with God. Why? Maybe he begins where most of us would start—feeling the love of people from the church even before experiencing the love of God. Beth, a Sabbath School class member, confesses that the Sabbath School is a “safe place to share her suffering and receive prayer and compassion.”
It is especially true of those who have experienced broken relationships in their lives. They sense love and acceptance. It’s such a new experience that they are overwhelmed. Then they learn that love does not originate with us as church members, love comes from God, sent to us through Jesus Christ, and we enjoy fellowship with Him.
Bible study—Read the Lord’s Word
Rosie, one Sabbath School class member, said it this way: “My faith in God is greatly fortified as I spend time with other members of the class. When I hear their real-life stories and bless them with my own daily experiences, my spiritual life is bolstered.”
Studies have shown that 48 percent of the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church read their Bible daily, and 51.7 percent have daily personal devotions. When asked how often they study the Sabbath School lesson, more than a third of respondents shared that they studied the Sabbath School lesson daily or more than once a day. A little more than a quarter responded that they study their Sabbath School lesson more than once a week, while 17 percent studied the lesson about once a week. One-tenth of respondents study the lesson less than once a month, and another tenth admitted that they never open the Sabbath School quarterly.2
Outreach—Touch the Lord’s community
Sam, a Sabbath School class facilitator, shared, “We are intentional in showing that our class has not grown indifferent to the defections from its fellowship. We visit members and visitors in their homes and give them the gift of fellowship.” When asked what brought him back to church after 10 years, Jimmy, who was recently rebaptized, identified two things: the church literature he continued to receive in his mailbox and the regular visits (and text messages) he received from a long-time Sabbath School friend. When our local church detects the first sign of frequent absence, a Sabbath School member is assigned to phone the individual. We really miss the “missing member.” Should the person continue to be absent, we will visit the person and pray with him or her.
Mission—Feel the Lord’s pain
Laura, a prayer group participant, testifies, “We need each other now more than ever before. The pain and heartache of this world should be even more of a reason to enjoy this fellowship.” Some Sabbath School classes at our church meet for Sabbath lunch and prayer meeting. We are living organisms, dependent on each other. The Bible commands, “Pray for that country, because if it prospers, so will you” (Jer. 29:7, Clear Word).
Fellowship has to be with God’s people! And who are they? Ellen White says, “His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints.”3 We are our brother’s keeper.
Sabbath School should be a time when we help each other to mature spiritually. Through testimony, prayer, and meaningful discussion of the lesson study, we can strengthen the Sabbath School class.
We, therefore, encourage our pas-tors and administrators to (1) study the quarterly, (2) promote Sabbath School in your church, and (3) attend Sabbath School. “The Sabbath school work is important, and all who are interested in the truth should endeavor to make it prosperous.”4 What can you do to make Sabbath School prosperous in your church?
As followers of Jesus, the more time we spend getting to know each other and our community, the better. That is what genuine fellowship with one another is all about.
—Written by Arnaud C. Moorooven, a local church pastor in Mauritius Island and Hensley M. Moorooven, the Undersecretary of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Silver Spring, Maryland, United States.
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1 Janice Williams, “Who Won Scripps National Spelling Bee Last Year? Karthik Nemmani Named 2018 Champion After Spelling ‘Koinonia,’ ” Newsweek, May 30, 2019, newsweek.com/karthik-nemmani -spelling-bee-2018-winner-1439950.
2 “Global Survey: Sabbath School Habits,” ASTR, https:// www.adventistresearch.org/blog/2019/02 /global-survey-sabbath-school-habits; "Global Trends on Bible Reading and Devotional Practices," ASTR, https://www.adventistresearch.org/blog/2018/12/ global-trends-bible-reading-and-devotional-practices.
3 Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1898), 638.
4 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work (Washington, DC: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1938), 9