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Jun 7, 2022

Are Christian fellowship and Christian conferencing the same or different things?

Explore why the words fellowship and conferencing, which have come to mean very different things, are actually pointing to one of the essential means of grace for United Methodists.

Christian Conferencing as a Means of Grace

But first, a question: Who has impacted your life and leadership the most?

For most of us, it’s teachers, mentors, or coaches. People we’ve been in relationships with over a period of time. People who care deeply about us, about our well-being, growth, and becoming who God created us to be.

Why that question?

In this series, we’ve explored searching the scriptures, prayer, Holy Communion and fasting. This episode on Christian conferencing concludes the series. As we conclude the series, we end with the means of grace that is focused on faith-forming relationships. As you continue to read and listen to Episode 233, you’ll notice we use Christian conferencing and fellowship interchangeably.

Christian Fellowship

Here’s why: When John Wesley talked about Christian Conferencing he was using the verb confer. It was about Christians coming together to focus on their faith: to pray, share their experience of God, seek advice, offer counsel, confess their sins, and ask for forgiveness.

With that reminder in place, it’s easy to recognize that we can't participate in Christian conferencing alone. Second, God doesn't want us to do life alone. And third, when you experience Christian fellowship, you realize you don't ever want to do it alone. But it wasn’t just John Wesley who talked about Christian conferencing. Let’s look at the scripture for reminders there too.

Biblical Basis for Christian Fellowship/Conferencing

  • Genesis 1 - Adam and Eve are created to be in relationship with one another. Why? Because it's not good to be alone.
  • Luke 6:12-16 As Jesus stepped into public ministry, he didn't do it alone. He chose 12 disciples to be with him on the journey.
  • Acts 2 - The Spirit forms the church.
  • Matthew 18:20  - Where two or three are gathered in my name, I'm there among them.
  • John 13 - a new commandment I give to you that you love one another, just as I've loved you. You also are to love one another.

John Wesley on Christian Conferencing

For Wesley, Christian Conferencing was about relationships. Faith-fueled relationships. The conferencing wasn’t a meeting. It wasn’t about legislation. Christian conferencing to Wesley was about being held in love and prayer by the people who cared about you the most.

He was confronted by the fact that he was inviting people into Christian conferencing. He said,

“That which never existed cannot be destroyed. The real truth is just the reverse of this. We introduced Christian fellowship where it was utterly destroyed and the fruits of it have been peace, joy, love, and zeal for every good word and work.”

-A Plain Account of the People Called Methodists

Christian fellowship remind us of the importance of being together. And that is both on Sundays for worship and at regular intervals of Christian conferencing. If you don't have one of those, you're not getting fully formed in the faith.

So in case it isn’t clear Christian conferencing is about recognizing yourself as one of God's beloved among a group of God's beloved so that you might love one another.

Means of Grace Series

Missed the other episodes on the means of grace? Find them here:

Episode 227 - The Means of Grace: Where Hope Abounds

Episode 228 - Misunderstanding the Means of Grace  - There’s Still Hope

Episode 229 - The Means of Grace: Searching the Scripture

Episode 230 - The Means of Grace: Prayer

Episode 231 - The Means of Grace: Holy Communion

Episode 232 - The Means of Grace: Fasting

Episode 233 - The Means of Grace: Christian Conferencing (scroll up!)

Learn More

Wesley's Sermons: