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Family, Fellowship and Leadership

by Chip Brogden
This is a transcripted excerpt from a recorded message.
Q: “I’m curious of your view on this: Do you believe in meetings with leadership that has been recognized by the others (others have seen the gifting of the Spirit in lives and recognized them as such, not a seminary degree but the Life of Christ coming from them)? I ask because it seems like you are telling people to go and hear God without really having any form of leadership (again servants to help equip them for their life ministry). I don’t ever see Paul preaching and then sending them out to be alone and just hear God, he set up fellowships where elders were established…

Chip: So the question concerns spiritual leadership, and of course I’m going to take this lengthy question and organize my answer as if I were doing a teaching on the subject, which means boiling it down to answering these basic questions: what is spiritual leadership, is it needed today, and if so, how does it function, or, how is it supposed to function – because we all know that the spiritual intent of something often breaks down once we try to implement it in real life.

I’ve actually talked a great deal about spiritual leadership, so if you haven’t heard me talking about it before I just assume you’ll come across it eventually.  I talk about spiritual leadership in my book, The Irresistible Kingdom.  And I talked about it quite a bit in my book, The Church in the Wilderness.  So I’ve already written quite a lot on this, but let me give you my first impressions as I digest your question and think about how to answer it.

It seems that there is too much of an emphasis on the meeting. Not just in your question, but I mean people in general (and Christians in particular) just place too much emphasis on how to “do the meeting.”  I’m unconcerned about meetings, and how they are organized, and who does what.  I’m just uninterested in the form of the meeting.  So when someone says we meet in homes, or we meet in a building, or we don’t have leaders, or we have a plurality of elders, I think it reflects an elementary level of thinking.  I’m just being honest.  That seems to be the focus for so many people, and I’m suggesting that it is the wrong focus.  It’s the wrong way to look at it.  It’s all external.  Really, I don’t care, and the reason I don’t care is because I don’t see “the meeting” as being the primary expression of faith.  I know for some people, their whole goal as a Christian is to meet with other Christians.  I just reject that.  I don’t think “the meeting” should be the primary force that drives the spirituality of God’s people.

It just goes back to a basic principle: what is fellowship to you?  What does it mean?  And for most people fellowship is a verb – it is something they do, or attend, or participate in.  And if you primarily see fellowship as a verb, then of course you are very interested in where to meet, when to meet, how to meet, what to do when you meet, and who should be doing what.  To me, those questions and concerns are all based on a viewpoint that sees fellowship as a verb – something to be done.

I see it quite differently.  I know most won’t agree with me, and most fight me on this, and are quick to point out that the believers in the New Testament met together in their homes.  I don’t deny that at all.  I’m just saying that meeting together is not what made them followers of Jesus; no more than going to McDonald’s makes you a hamburger.  Followers of Jesus are people who follow JESUS.  And so, yes, I emphasize your personal relationship with God, first and foremost.  Jesus says come to ME and learn of ME.  And I give that a lot of weight and importance.

This is how Religion gets a foothold – we become concerned with the outward elements, like meetings: how to meet, what to do when we meet, who’s in charge, blah blah blah blah blah.  Would you agree that everyone has different ideas on those things?  It’s really no different than talking about what color should the carpet in the sanctuary be – red, or blue?  Who cares?  So when people focus on fellowship as a verb, that’s what you get.  And it isn’t profitable to your spiritual life to become consumed with those things.  We will never get agreement on them, and everyone tends to identify with the groups that most closely resemble what they think the “ideal” meeting or fellowship is supposed to look like.

Listen, there is no “ideal” meeting or fellowship or group or way to worship God insofar as external things are concerned.  And you say, “Well Chip, that’s a pretty dismissive attitude you have there.”  I don’t think so.  I see it the same way Jesus saw it when He was talking with the woman at the well in John 4.  As soon as she finds out that Jesus is a prophet (so she thinks – of course we know Him as much more than a prophet), she starts to have a religious discussion with Him.  “Well, I can see You are a prophet, a holy man, so let me ask You a religious question, let me get Your opinion on this big controversy, so I can settle this right now: our people say you should worship God here in this mountain, but Your people say that Jerusalem is the place where people should worship.  Now, You tell me where people should worship: is it in Jerusalem, or in this mountain?”

And Jesus just totally dismissed the whole question, in the sense that He did not choose sides, and He didn’t satisfy her curiosity, because here is a woman who has been married five times and she isn’t even married to the one she’s living with now – but she’s putting out this religious question that is really irrelevant to her own spiritual condition.  Who cares?  “Woman, you’re living in sin, and you’re concerned with who’s right or wrong about ‘where’ to worship God?  You’re asking the wrong question.”  So how did Jesus respond?  “Neither,” He said.  Oh, you know she didn’t like that answer!  She wanted a right or wrong, yes or no, black or white kind of answer, and Jesus just brushed all that aside.  “It doesn’t matter – because God’s not interested in WHERE you worship.”

See, that to me is the right answer.  If God is not concerned about it, I’m not going to waste any of my brain cells trying to figure it out.  I know some people just get a kick out of discussing, debating, and dissecting all those issues, but if God isn’t concerned about it, then I couldn’t care less.  That’s my attitude.  But right along with that, what I want to know is: what DOES God care about?  What man thinks is important, and what God thinks is important, are usually two very different things.  So she was concerned with WHERE to worship God, and Jesus says God is more concerned about HOW God is worshipped – that God seeks those who will worship Him in Spirit and Truth.

So once you have seen what God is after, it would be elementary and immature to then go back and say, “OK, I know you’re saying God wants Spirit and Truth worship, but I still want an answer to my question – tell me yes or no, in this mountain, or in Jerusalem?”  That would be taking a step backwards.  And that’s why I am very detached from the whole issue of when to meet, where to meet, and what to do when you meet.  I think those issues have been discussed and debated until people are sick of hearing about them, and yet – AND YET – we are no closer to Spirit and Truth worship NOW than we were when we first started debating them.

Now this is all related to spiritual leadership, because in my experience, how you view “the meeting” has a lot to do with how you view spiritual leadership.  If you view “the meeting” as a time when Christians come together in a relaxed, informal setting where everyone just kind of does whatever they feel led to do, shares whatever they feel like sharing, then you probably see spiritual leadership is unneeded and unnecessary.  On the other hand, if you view “the meeting” as something that should look more goal-oriented, a little more structured, because you’re trying to teach specific things and minister to people in a specific way, then you probably have a more formal view of spiritual leadership – a high view, where it is more about servant leadership, or a lower view, where it is very authoritarian and more like a benevolent dictatorship.  Most people in the religious system operate under the premise that the pastor is the spiritual leader of the church, some favor a plurality of elders, and then some have thrown off spiritual leadership altogether and think the best way is for everyone to come together and just be “led by the Spirit.”

So which way is best?  I’m going to answer the same way Jesus answered the woman at the well; He said, “Neither,” (given a choice of two options) – and I’ll say, “None of the above,” (given a choice of three or more options).  You’ve got problems with all those views of spiritual leadership.  Everyone can produce Scriptures to justify their position.  So when you say, “But brother, the Bible talks about apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers,” I would say: absolutely. I’m not saying it doesn’t, but I’m saying just because the Bible talks about a thing, it doesn’t mean we have rightly interpreted and applied the thing it’s talking about.  I mean, you can use the Bible to justify polygamy – so just because you’ve got Scriptures to support a particular viewpoint, it doesn’t make your viewpoint correct.  For all the ones who point to the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in the Bible, you’ve got people who will take the same Bible and talk about the priesthood of all believers – God has made us all kings and priests, and then there’s First John saying, “You have no need of any man to teach you, for the anointing will teach you all things, and lead you into all truth.”  So people will seize on that and say, “See?  We don’t need leaders, we can just be led by the Spirit.”

So what happens is we all have a standard in our mind that tells us what the ideal church looks like, what the ideal group is, what the ideal meeting consists of, what the ideal form of spiritual leadership is, and so on.  We form these “fellowship fantasies” in our mind – we actually visualize the ideal for us, what we’re comfortable with, what we think is right – and then, in the name of “like-mindedness,” we gather together with people who see it the same way we do.  Well… that’s not Spirit and Truth.  That’s agreement on the basis of how to do a meeting.  I’m sick to death of those kinds of meetings.  Aren’t you?  But that’s human nature.  You’re not being led by the Spirit of God just because you’re meeting with people who happen to agree with how the meetings should be conducted.

So my view is this: if your view of fellowship is wrong, your view of spiritual leadership will be wrong.  Some people cannot visualize the Body of Christ in any context other than “the meeting.”  These are the people who don’t understand how you can be a Christian without going to church.  To them, being a Christian is synonymous with “going to church.”  Originally, about 2, 000 years ago, it had to do with following Jesus.  Now, it has more to do with the meeting.  And that’s how people view the Body of Christ – one big hook-up joint where they can get their fellowship fix.  I’m just speaking plainly.  I don’t see the Body of Christ that way anymore.  I don’t think the Body of Christ was ever intended, or meant to be interpreted, through the context of where they met, how they met, or what they did when they met.

Let me tell you how I view the Body of Christ, and then you’ll understand how I view fellowship, and then you’ll understand how I view leadership.  My thoughts can be summed up in three points.

1. The Body of Christ is first, and foremost, a FAMILY.  The Body of Christ is the Family of God.  I don’t see the Body of Christ as an institution, or a religion.  I see the Body of Christ as a Family.

2. FELLOWSHIP in this family is a state of being, not a state of doing.  Fellowship (to me) either exists or it doesn’t.  The Fellowship of the Son is not based on meetings, it’s based on union with Christ.  If we are one with Him then we are one with all who are joined with Him.  “If we walk in the Light, as He is in the light, we HAVE FELLOWSHIP with one another” (1 Jn. 1:7).  It doesn’t say we WILL FELLOWSHIP (that’s “fellowship” being used as a verb); it says we HAVE FELLOWSHIP (that’s “fellowship” being used as a noun).  Fellowship in this Family is a state of being.  We are One Body in Christ; therefore, we have fellowship with one another, so long as we walk in the light as He is in the light.  Not a word about meetings.  You can meet all you like, but fellowship is not based on meeting, it’s based on walking in the light.

3. In the Family of God, the “olders” are the “elders.” That’s what an elder is – an elderly person, or an older person.  Someone who is older in the Lord than me is my elder brother or my elder sister.  Again, you have to look at this in terms of a FAMILY.  If you look at it in any other context, you’ll mess it all up.  You look at it in a religious context and you’ll see the elders at the top of the organizational chart, and everyone below them on the chart submitting to them and doing what they say.  That always ends badly, when you look at it that way.  And I respect the fact that some want to stress “servant leadership” as a way to try and soften the blow, and create some distance between that top-heavy kind of leadership and a softer, gentler kind of leadership.  It’s admirable.  It’s a good step.

But it’s a lot simpler to just think of the Body of Christ as the Family of God, and in this Family, you’ve got older brothers and younger brothers; older sisters, and younger sisters; and the older brothers and sisters in any family are supposed to watch over their younger brothers and sisters.  It’s just natural.  Mom sends the two brothers off somewhere, and she says, “Now Johnny, you keep an eye on your younger brother!” And Johnny says “Yes ma’am”, and he keeps an eye on his younger brother.  If someone messes with his kid brother, Johnny defends him.  If his brother falls down and scrapes his knee, Johnny helps him get up.  If his brother’s shoelaces become untied, he ties his brother’s shoelaces.  I mean, I’m the oldest in my family; I have a younger brother and a younger sister; and that’s the way it worked in my family.  “Chip, watch out for your brother, keep an eye on your sister, she’s younger than you.”  That’s a normal family experience I think most of us can relate to.  And if your parents found out that you didn’t watch out for your younger brother or sister, or worse, if you took advantage of being the elder and you abused your younger brother or sister, you would be in a world of trouble when your parents found out.

So I think there is such wisdom in God setting it up this way from the start – the Body of Christ is the Family of God.  God is our Father, Jesus is our Eldest Brother, Who is watching over us.  Then, we have some in this Family that are older than the others – and in the case of spiritual maturity, we’re not interested in their physical age, and we’re not interested in how many years they’ve followed the Lord, we’re interested in their true spiritual age that reflects their deep history with God, and the wisdom and maturity and experience they have, regardless of their chronological age.  That’s why Timothy is considered an elder even though he is physically younger.

So when it says that Paul appointed or confirmed elders by the Holy Spirit, if you look at the Body of Christ as an organization, you’re going to interpret that differently than if you look at the Body of Christ as a Family.  Paul was saying, “OK, you’re the elders – you’re older, so watch over your younger brothers and sisters.”  You may think that’s over-simplifying the process, but I think if you try to make it any more than that, you are over-complicating the process.

When it comes to fellowship, again, look at it in terms of a Family.  Some family members you live with, some are near to you, and you see them all the time.  Some family members live a long ways off, and you may see them once or twice a year, or never.  Well, they don’t stop being family just because you don’t meet with them every week.  So many times I see Christians who claim they are all about “fellowship” but only so long as you attend their meetings, and once you stop attending the meeting, they stop treating you like family.  Obviously, they have a different idea of what fellowship is supposed to mean.  I see fellowship as happening anywhere, anytime members of the Family interact with one another.  My daughter is no less my daughter just because she lives 600 miles away and I talk to her on the phone.  We get together and see each other when we can, but our relationship isn’t based on how many “family reunions” we attend.

So those are some of my thoughts on spiritual leadership.  Is spiritual leadership needed?  Absolutely.  Especially when I consider what groups look like after a few months of having no leadership at all.  Do we really have a clue what spiritual leadership consists of, especially “outside the camp”?  Probably not, at least not until we unlearn all the things we learned in the religious system, and begin to see the Body of Christ as the Family of God.  Then I think all our issues with fellowship and leadership will be resolved, and we can just begin to love one another, help one another, and go on towards Christ-centered spiritual maturity.


  1. Regina

    Beautiful Chip!

    • Tammy Simon

      Thank you so much Chip. I left the organized religious organizations a few months ago and it’s taking time to get comfortable outside of what I have been programmed to believe is fellowship. But the closer I walk and Follow Christ the more sense and the more stength I have to do it.
      I am very encouraged brother by this article. Please continue to help us towards maturity in Spirit and in Truth ONLY!

    • Jim Alexander

      Great revelation on the functon of the Body of Christ.

      The traditional church limits us to revelation of that ago old denomination. It doesn’t teach you to hear The Lord and mature as a Son of God.

      Jim a

  2. Paula.harries

    Leaving church is a massive deal, as human beings most of us thrive connected and suffer when not…relationship is so vital that God himself is triune. Now I know we can be family etc but if you never see them or know how their lives are going it doesn’t mean much…It’s a relief to be out of church that’s for sure, after awhile it get’s hard though , many go back….the desire not for church but for real flesh and blood connections.We are individuals some made extrovert some introvert with real and various needs and the concept of isolation over the long term, is just too much for some. It’s ok having thoughts and writing books on the issue of fellowship, we are flesh and blood at the end of the day, and meeting with others matters as much as being alone with God, I don’t know what the answer is, but I worry for vulnerable hurt isolated believers who I believe are in need of real shepherds….I pray God will begin to raise them up .

    • Tammy Simon

      I believe God replaces the voids of those in the buildings with others in many areas of our lives. Prayerfully people are open enough to see it. At least that has been my experience. As soon as I let go of the old beliefs and looked around at those I gained they were true relationships of equally yoked followers of Christ not all in one place but all over my life.

      Be A Blessing!

    • Valerie

      Thanks for the article Chip…..I appreciate the way you are able to wrap words around our experiences and understandings. Tammy, I agree with you here as this was my experience as well…when we believe that only certain kinds of relationships are spiritually beneficial to us and others, we can miss what is right in front of us…..

    • David L

      Paula.harries, I do know what you mean about necessary connection. For us (my wife and I), context means everything. I can find a “fellow Christian” as I am shopping or going to the bank. I come back home and share that with my wife (who is wheelchair bound), and we are edified from the fellowship I had with a “brother or sister” I met along the way. The connection was through God’s Spirit together. Also, we will call or get a call from of our spiritual family across the nation and have fellowship with them because we share the fellowship of the Holy Spirit. For us that has replaced the religious meeting and provided the needed support. Otherwise, my wife and I are alone and almost house bound. Our daughter and son-in-law are religious church goers with the context of that being true fellowship. They encourage us to “go to church” while recognizing that we can’t endure a 3 hour meeting. “Come just for Bible study Mom!” “Fine dear. Will you help me to find a wheel chair accessible van to get there?” Our children reply, “I’m just sayin'” “Okay, well, until we can get a van, we can’t get there but maybe we can study together here!” “Sorry Mom and Dad, but our schedule won’t permit.”

      In that light, our true fellowship is what God provides “on the fly” with those who are truly interested in sharing that heart in snippits, praying on the fly and showing true care by providing a quick meal every now again. We aren’t connected to a program church, but the Lord watches over us and we endure until He comes or we go to be with Him.

  3. James


  4. Anissa

    I absolutely love the truth of this article! So on point and why the religious don’t want or like to hear at all. I’ve been through a lot these past couple of years in the physical “church” system. I watch so many sitting in the pews hurting and even the ones serving. It is sad that as long as people are building the kingdom of man by serving and following rules and such of the “church”, the “church” doesn’t care about the spuritual condition of the people who are serving and sitting in their pews. There are many people sitting in these pews who have gifts and dk t even know it because they are taught to just come to “church” hear the word and go home to do it all again 4-5 times per month and they believe that is having a relationship with God. I just went through one the worst experiences in my life to where I learned a valuable lesson. I ended up marrying a deacon in the church. He walked into my life. We courted for a very short time before he asked my hand in marriage. During the wedding plans I started to get a message in my spirit that I need to wait to get to know him better. I went to my pastor with my husband and expressed my concern. My pastor looked at me and said that since my fiancé didn’t want to wait that I should reconsider. At that point, being new in Christ, I thought it right to listen and take my spuritual leader’s advice. Actually I started to feel guilty because I had the notion to wait. I trusted my fiancé was spiritually mature because of his title and the fact that he was given a “leadership” position. by the pastor, he must be a trusted man who is a follower of God. It lasted just over a year but there was never a marriage. We only had a wedding. I pray for this man daily because he is spiritually bankrupt and he runs around doing everything for the church at the drop of a dime but he married a woman with no intentions on loving her but only to have the status of being married. This man lived in a house with all white walls, no decorations, and pictures weren’t allowed. It represented what was going on inside. He refused to communicate, never told me he loved me, matter of fact a month or so after marriage he told me he wasn’t in love with me but yet when we would go to church, he would put his arm around me and put on a facade. I was devastated. I am 35 and he’s 50. I loved this man and I was real to my commitment. Needless to say I tried and tried and gave and gave to no avail. I went to bed alone many nights including our honeymoon. I gave it all I had to the point I almost lost who I was. I began to feel unworthy and invaluable. I couldn’t talk to God, he seemed so distant because I tried to change who I was to make this man happy but nothing was ever good enough. I fell pregnant early on in our marriage. Still to this day he shows no interest in the child. I stopped going to the church because I could no longer support his treatment towards me and watch him be someone else at church. I quietly left. However before leaving, I made one last attempt in getting help from the “church.” I reached out to my pastor and the elders for help believing he would be admonished for his wrongs towards the union he made with me before God. I did everything the bible speaks of in Matthew but with no response from the church. That was even more devastating because I knew it was only hurting my husband further due to there not being any consequences. They still allowed him to continue serving and even mentoring other married men. As for me, I was considered as being just “confused”. I served in that same church up until I left. I was on the magnification team, membership team, missions team. But because I didn’t agree with leadership, I was no longer considered in fellowship with the “church.” I decided to separate from my husband around our anniversary in hopes of reconciliation. I sought legal advice only because of the baby inside if me. His response to my petition for separation was a petition for divorce. I was broken even further. Everything he did was to push me away because he never wanted me there. I had a life before we met. I owned a home, still have a great job and all. He never allowed me to fully move into his home, he actually told me that it was a sacrifice for him to open his home to me just after marriage. I gave up everything. My dogs, my creativity, my personal things and and even my home to make a life with him. I never got mad at God because I know it was him who warned me and he knows the ending before the beginning. This child is a blessing and God has a plan for her. As for the “church” I attended, God had allowed me to see that it is a kingdom being built by man and for man’s purpose and not for the purpose of God and His kingdom because men are being led to follow the “spiritual leader” instead of God. People who are desiring the gifts are being to the gifts aren’t for everyone. He is showing me that judgement is befalling that location. People have already begun to leave. God loves them all the same but pride truly comes before a fall. It is written. I pray blessings over his people daily and that they would truly see the light and come out of the darkness they are in. I cry for them to the point God gave me a dream that I was riding the back of a majestic lion. He carried me through the country side. People would stop and stare in awe of the beautiful lion and in wonder of how I was able to ride his back in unity. I didn’t want to wake up. It was so real, I didn’t want to leave that place. I asked the Holy Spirit to reveal the meaning. He told me, Jesus is carrying me and to rest in Him; in peace. Please pray for my strength and courage to continue on the path God has for me and to always remember who I am and to whom I belong to. The divorce proceedings have not begun. The weirdest thing is, I love my husband still. There is nothing he can do to me to change that.

    • Wendy Ann


      I love your testimony – I didn’t want to stop reading this – all I have to say is Amen

    • Ken Russell

      My heart goes out to you Anissa. I pray that Jesus will be your delight and that He will abundantly bless you and your child.

      May you find in Him all you need.

    • Janet Hagen

      Sister, You’ve just told us in great detail that this man is a religious phony holding a “leadership” position in a sick, twisted religious system. He married you on false pretenses, abandoned you emotionally, physically, mentally, etc. I pray that God will show you the root of your woundedness that causes you to “love” him. I just want to give you a BIG hug girl! You were shafted by a Pharisee. You are worthy to be loved, cherished by a true man of God. Don’t look back. Dont sell yourself short. Do the hard “heart work” God requires of you to get spiritually/mentally/emotionally healthy. I counsel young women and always tell them to put their boyfriends/fiances into as many social, family, private conversation situations as possible and ask questions, watch & listen to his responses to you and others. Praise God for the Holy Spirit who warns us. “God is near to the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds”.

    • David L

      Annisa, walking in the Spirit opens our eyes to see things His way versus the ways of man. Pray for understanding and humbly submit to His truth in your life. Seek the Lord to understand your situation so you can pray appropriately. For example, Ephesians 5 explains the marriage as being reflective of His covenant with us (the church). He cares for us deeply and gave Himself for us to take all our pain and sorrows (Isaiah 53). Your pain and suffering, your marriage and its trouble is also experienced by the Lord as He dealt with old Israel. Peter tells us to join in His sufferings with our own situations as we submit to His counsel of suffering (1 Peter 4). Because He is intimately aware of all our sufferings (Hebrews 4:14-15), Jesus intercedes for us as our High Priest. Therefore, we go before His throne boldly, humbly and with a contrite heart. We submit to Him as He loved Israel (and still does) even though it is rebellious and religiously blind. Pray for your unbelieving husband and live out 1 Timothy 5:14. Be faithful to intercede for him in truth as defined by the Holy Spirit and His Word.

  5. Velda Johnson

    I think your response reflects the depth of study, thought and experience that has been invested surrounding this subject, and I appreciate the valid truth that you expounded on in regards to the contrast of one’s perspective being based on elementary levels as it pertains to their perspective of fellowship being viewed in the context of a meeting only and thus forsaking the perspective of its use in the form of a noun and coming out of a state of being, being a part of the family in the Body of Christ. There is truth that debunks the religious mindset. Jesus always debunked the religious mindsets in a very unexpected way. The moment the religious thought they could prove him wrong, he knew exactly what they were up to and never once fell into the traps they tried to set. In Matthew 10 when Jesus sent out His disciples as sheep among the wolves, He admonished them to be as wise as serpents and as harmless as doves, in the same way as one of his disciples today He teaches us to do the same…May the Spirit of God continue to teach you as He teaches all His true followers.

  6. Mary

    Family is the way fellowship works, amen. We can go to meetings for 25 years and work hard at human loyalties within those meetings, but in the end, that is not what God means by fellowship, if it isn’t a family. When you are loved by family and you mess up, there are those who will always make sure you are helped: not helped because you are an embarrassment or because you didn’t toe the line, but helped because you belong, and because you are needy, and because you are loved. That is what family does.
    Families have a common Father. Once born again we have a common Father: our heavenly Father. Many these days are born again in difficult circumstances, coming out of evil situations. What they don’t need is Christians telling them they are not family because of how they behave, whether they attend church, whether they tithe etc., whether they fit into our religious setting. That is not how family works.
    If someone is born again, and we are also, then that person is our family, because we have the same Father. Regardless of what they do, they are still family. We do not know what things they are up against in holding onto their faith. We do not know what sufferings and challenges they have faced as satan mounts his onslaught to bomb them off the track of their faith. Let’s not do satan’s work, but God’s. Lets love them and do good to them, as a brother or a sister, wherever we find them. Let us willingly spend and be spent for them, to help them, and to bring them into the joyful inheritance of the children of God.
    Fellowship in the context of this enquiry is a word to describe a religious commodity, if we are carnal minded: something that we must have. Spiritual fellowship, conversely, is a process: not something to have, but to do and to be, according to the working of Christ in us, according to His love and His power and His mercy, and His longing to embrace His children wherever they are found.
    As usual, the institutions state their right of entitlement to the commodity of fellowship, and are cross with us if we challenge that. But if we are thinking we are entitled to the commodity of fellowship, and to bash others who see it otherwise, the likelihood is that the Lord will not be seen present there. Our salvation is not of works. The Lord does not show up because we have “done our service” and attended a meeting.
    He shows up wherever 2 or 3 are gathered in His name; He shows up when hearts are humble, knowing we are deserving of nothing; He shows up when He sees His love upon us, working His will; He shows up when we show we are truly His children.
    Great article, thanks!!
    Love, Mary

  7. Ken Russell

    Great response Chip. I have two questions:

    1. How does the Lord’s Supper fit into this?

    2. Where would marriage, funerals or baptisms take place?

    Bless you my brother.

    • Sharrom

      Hi Ken,
      I’m not Chip but I can tell you how my husband has handled baptisms. He is not ‘ordained’ or considered to be a ‘leader’ by the institutional definition, but he has baptized 2 of our children ( in a creek at a park) and a man at his job that is a new believer was baptized by him in a friend’s swimming pool.
      My husband has functioned as an ‘older brother’, allowing the Lord to shepherd through him.
      Not because anyone has given my husband the title ‘pastor’ but because at this particular time, in this season of my husband’s life, that is how the Spirit is moving through him in this particular relationship.
      You may be doing the same thing Ken but because of our training through the ‘churches’ we don’t recognize these things readily or we downplay them. Communion can be with your family or any other believers you have in your home – not even when you have intentionally set up a time for communion..the Spirit may just lead you to say ‘hey, let’s celebrate the Lord with a meal (or however you end up doing it).
      Why can’t we have funeral ceremonies at the place of burial, the funeral establishment or (as I’ve requested of my husband) in our homes? (No ”viewing of the body’, just a memorial celebration) As being citizens of the Father’s Kingdom, we are free from the ‘traditions of men’. As long as we are not disobeying the laws of the land, we can move according to the Spirit.
      I’m sure others will come along with some thoughts but I just want to encourage you to be free in the liberty the Lord has given you – he will guide you further in these matters.
      Blessings to you!

      • Ken Russell

        Thanks so much Sharrom for your input. I thought that’s the way it would be done and you have confirmed it.

        My spirit resonates with your statement “I just want to encourage you to be free in the liberty the Lord has given you – he will guide you further in these matters.”

        May god continue to open our eyes to His ways.

  8. sherry

    What confirmed to me that the institutional church was a false system and fellowship was when my family and myself left it. My husband was apart of these people for 45 years and myself and our 2 children for 10 years. As long as we did all we were asked and volunteered for, people were there, but as soon as we left they broke all ties with us as though we no longer meant anything to them. The pastor was the worst. To this day we are still shunned by him when we attend a wedding or a funeral or special event, we are ignored at all cost. This is not how family is to be treated, especially the family of God. When we see anyone out in public, the only question is where are you going to church now? It’s not how have you been or we miss you? It’s as if, since we are not in church we are in dire disobedience and we are not to be associated with. This to me is mind control, trying to make us feel bad so we will come back if we want their friendship. Is there anywhere in scripture that says if one breaks fellowship or leaves falsehood that that one is to be shunned and disowned? I still am shocked at how we were treated and still are.

  9. Bob

    So is the answer yes or no? I guess I totally missed it. I also see the church as the body of Christ, but I am confused in your answer.

    • David L

      Dear Bob, I certainly am not Chip, but I have had to come to the same conclusion. Definitions must be given from the Bible as revealed by the Holy Spirit. This does not allow free association with the scripture, but rather mutual submission to our God and King. Jesus reigns in Heaven right now with His Spirit being in us as believers. He calls the shots. Also, the Ephesians 4 “gifts to the church” is a misnomer if the definitions are made through theology. The phrase “apostle and prophets” reflect a body of doctrine in the New Covenant, not perpetual positions filled by living men. Evangelists have a definition also if it is given the context of 1 Corinthians 5:17-21. Therefore, leaders within a gathering of believers that agree to meet on a regular basis are chosen by the Holy Spirit and confirmed by everyone together. In that context, everyone meeting together are ambassadors of Christ and must mutually submit to each other to continue the work of edification, comfort and correction. We care daily for one another and are concerned for each other’s welfare. The dynamic is totally different than organized church religion.

  10. Faye

    What really troubles me is seeing a called-out, Spirit-led man of God trying to pastor a group of religious people who squelch the Spirit of God at every turn! Control and manipulation are as witchcraft, and it’s very hard for these “messengers to Nineveh” to break through to the people. The religious system is full of strongholds that push the Holy Spirit away, and it brings curses on the body, not blessing. You will know them by their fruits.

    I can no longer stand to attend “church” anywhere because of what it has become.

  11. Robert Ivy

    What was the writer of Hebrews referring to when he commanded Christians to forsake not the assembling of themselves together?

  12. Thabo

    Dear Brother Chip

    What a clear and simple explanation

    Very closely related to the issue of “fellowship” and “leadership” from the religious-institutional perspective, is the issue of the “Sabbath” and the Law. I have seen people being deceived into “keeping the Sabbath” (by not working from 18:00 Friday to 18:00 Saturday, and attending a religious gathering on the Saturday), and some have now joined Jadaism and Messianic Movement. These believers rigidly believe that anyone who does not do what they are doing is in the wrong and will face hell-fire, because GOD Himself rested on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath is one of the “Ten Commandments”, it must be obeyed by true followers of CHRIST, so they say. They believe Paul and Jesus kept the Sabbath.

    May I kindly request you to address these two issues in the form of a lesson as you did with this article.


  13. Jesse

    Hi Chip.

    I just want to simply say thank you for taking the time to answer my question, I just saw your response today. I do not have a response or any other questions at the moment I just want to thank you. I will take this to prayer as I believe much of what you said already but will need hear from Him on the rest. I can’t express how blessed I am that you did actually care enough to respond. Also I don’t mind your ” being honest” statements. If we can’t speak honestly and openly with one another with out being offended we will not get very far in Following Him.

  14. Steve Brown

    Chip – I agree fully. You are spot-on with your assessment.

    “This is how Religion gets a foothold – we become concerned with the outward elements, like meetings: how to meet, what to do when we meet, who’s in charge, blah blah blah blah blah. Would you agree that everyone has different ideas on those things? It’s really no different than talking about what color should the carpet in the sanctuary be – red, or blue? Who cares? So when people focus on fellowship as a verb, that’s what you get. And it isn’t profitable to your spiritual life to become consumed with those things. We will never get agreement on them, and everyone tends to identify with the groups that most closely resemble what they think the “ideal” meeting or fellowship is supposed to look like.”

    This is part of where denominations lose site of Christ and a love for Him. Church splits, divisiveness, and the like all start with pride and warring against one another because someone wants a kitchen in the meeting hall and the Bible does not specifically mention a kitchen. For those who seek a place to Worship rather than The Relationship they are being extremely mislead in their Walk and Relationship with Christ. This, if believe is the work of evil, which distracts followers from being true Servants of Our Lord.

  15. Deborah

    A whole paradigm shift… Going against the grain… Huge! Christians are too busy to bond. Function with a purpose or goal is what it’s all about. Frankly, when I was in the mix of it all, never dawned on me to be intimate with my FAMILY… What’s love got to do with it? Or so I thought… WRONG!,, finding my way into the heart of my Savior… It’s truly a miracle I can say these things being in leadership for many, many years, I didn’t know how blind I was… Saving grace… The cross is coming in clear view now, no more behavior modification… Our life in Christ begins with a funeral… John 12:24… Selah…and then resurrection comes… I have grace for the change… A step at a time…

  16. Kendall Albright

    Relationship is simple, it’s just Him and us. together with Him, Vine and branches Loving Him with all we have within us, and loving others with the Love He constantly gives each of us. Simple and open to His heart, and it all works together in every way. Peace be with you.

  17. Will WILLIAMS

    That was an awesome way to explain it, there are so many “christians” that wrote us off becsuse we dont attenda meeting. We are backsliders in sin because we view Church not being a place but us the Followers of Christ. Crazy

  18. Paul Harbin

    Chip, Thanks for allowing the Spirit to put into words what I feel. I have been kind of tired of trying to explain why I am where I am.


    To Anissa –
    A heart wrenching story — my heart goes out to you — I can relate in one way — I gave my all to a man – who ended up leaving me after 28 years — and as I cried out to God for answers – when I could not find them — I learned by reading the Bible – this man never loved me — only used me — that is a devastating experience — as yours has been — I too lost my identity in who I was – trying to be everything he expected me to be — and it seemed I could never do enough to please him — there was no “relationship” – and he always turned to his folks in times of decisions – never to me — and I hungered for that kind of intimacy but never found it with my husband — But I must say – I now thank God this happened – for it brought me to God – and if it were not for His hand on me – I likely would not be alive today — But I hear one good thing from your story — you found yourself again — and who you are IN Christ — time does not heal — but Jesus is the great healer — and IN Him you have a new and better identity — and can find a greater love IN Him — I have come to learn about His love – a love I never found with any human being — and I experience His presence which brings a wonderful joy and peace and warmth I never felt before — and I hear the strength and courage you have — to step out on your own — and build a new and better life – for yourself and your child – a life filled with love — and if you keep seeking Christ you will find it — He is your strength — your all in all — you have recognized the problem – and knowing the problem is the first step to victory — I too thought I would always love my husband — but I learned love is a choice — and I cannot love a man I no longer have any respect for — and I made a choice to love and trust Jesus instead — He will never leave you – or forsake you — and more important — your blessings come from God – not from man — and your rewards come from knowing Him — not from pleasing man —- Now you can give Christ preeminence — you have a path to walk — a path with Jesus — it is the right path — and it has many rewards and is never-ending. And keep listening to Chip – I have learned much from his teachings – that has helped to set me free – in many ways — about relationships – and religiosity – and best of all – growing up in Christ. Blessings to you – without measure.

  20. Alex Voon

    Thanks Chip for this message which I fully agree.
    Ken Russell brought up the Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) which I have much interest.
    Today churches has adopted RCC (mas) Holy Communion methods which is unbiblical, ritualistic and is false.
    The Lord’s Supper (Holy Communion) is the Passover feast / a meal which is Jewish in culture and it is held once a year.
    Today churches has been misled and manipulated by RCC into something ritualistic(pagan like) and different from the Jews.
    Communion, fellowship, conformity, humility and relationship are the true spiritual essence required for partaking the Lord’s Supper.
    In today churches, some even thinks that their sins will be forgiven just because they partake the Holy Communion. So they do it frequently because they know that their life is not right with God. We are to purge out all our sins before we partake the Holy Communion. Otherwise we condemn ourselves when we partake the Holy Communion.
    1 Corinth 11:19
    – For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.
    – When ye come together therefore into one place, [this] is not to eat the Lord’s supper.
    – For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread:
    – Now in this that I declare [unto you] I praise [you] not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
    – Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord.

  21. Elle

    This is an excellent article. Really enjoyed the analogy that if your daughter lives 600 miles away from you doesn’t mean she’s not family. Amen. And also enjoyed the woman at the well in John 4 asking Jesus where the right place to worship God. Loved it. May the Lord continue to bless you Chip with more spiritual revelations. Thank you Lord my God and redeemer. Jesus Christ amen.

  22. Sandrine

    Thanks Chip.

    Rereading this text reminded me of certain things; And it is always balm for my heart… Yes for me too like Elle : “I really enjoyed the analogy that if your daughter lives 600 miles away from you doesn’t mean she’s not family.”

    P.S. : {I do not know why since my experience in 2008, I can no longer say “my brother” or “my sister”… something is blocking inside me… but somewhere… I consider myself a little sister…}. ?

  23. Joy


    Thank you!

  24. Derek C Dare

    That’s exactly our experience with the church and the so called Bible studies/ whatever they call them. There is so many”names” they give them. It seems to only be acquaintances, because once you miss or stop going, your out! Then if you run into some of those people, they say, how have you been? I was thinking about you, blah,blah,blah, then call, find out why,. Nobody wants to get involved with others lives because there too busy. Bring back the old days when it took a village to raise a child attitude.

  25. Chrissy

    Thank you Chip for this article that I so wholeheartedly agree with. I have been a born again believer in Jesus for over 40 years and have only spent about 8 of those years meeting in a church building setting. I was called out of churchianity around 25 years ago. I was actually born again for a long time before I even attended a church building/meeting in the first place so didn’t receive religion but was taught of The Holy Spirit without the input of men for several years. I agree with you that the Body of Christ is family and I am in fellowship with them because I am in fellowship with Christ, and we are one in Him.
    If we are one with Him then we are one with all who are joined with Him. “If we walk in the Light, as He is in the light, we HAVE FELLOWSHIP with one another” (1 Jn. 1:7).

  26. Caroline

    Amen Brother Chip

  27. Steve Hazen

    Thank you brother 🤗!


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