It is good to remember that the revolutionary fellowship of which we read in the New Testament was a result of careful thought and much disciplined dreaming. In one sense the entire burst of new life was seen as the work of God, a sheer gift of divine grace, but in another sense the work and thought of dedicated men and women were required. In any case, St. Paul and others actually put enormous effort into the problem. His inspired Epistles are given over very largely to his own creative thought about what the nature of a redeeming fellowship might be. In letter after letter the same criteria appear.
The fellowship must be marked by mutual affection of the members, by a sense of real equality in spite of difference of function, by inner peace in the face of the world's turmoil and by an almost boisterous joy. The members are to be filled, not with the intoxication of wine, but with that of the Spirit, Such people could hardly avoid, as the sequence in the fifth chapter of Ephesians suggests, breaking out in psalms and hymns. In the early Christian community the people sang, not from convention, but from a joy which overflowed. Life was for these people no longer a problem to be solved, but a thing of glory.
Today the most convincing answer would be a contemporary demonstration. We cannot revive the faith by argument, but we might catch the imagination of puzzled men and women by an exhibition of a Christian fellowship so intensely alive that every thoughtful person would be forced to respect it. The creation of such a fellowship is the argument that can count in the confused world of our day. If again there appears a fellowship of men and women who show, by their vitality and moral sensitivity and overwhelming joy, that they have found something so real that they no longer seek means of escape, the seekers will have something to join without disappointment and without embarrassment. If there should emerge in our day such a fellowship, wholly without artificiality and free from the dead hand of the past, it would be an exciting event of momentous importance. A society of loving souls without self-seeking struggle for personal prestige or any unreality would be something unutterably precious. A wise person would travel any distance to join it.
Do you want to know whether a group is part of the true church? Very well, note whether they love each other; note whether their hearts are quickened by the love of the Living God; note whether they show that they have the mind of Christ in them. No other credentials are needed.
One of the major symptoms of our spiritual decline is the relative absence of joy... No civilization is possible without adventure, and the adventure which our time demands is adventure in the formation of faith-producing fellowships.
- by Dr. D. Elton Trueblood