Fellowship is one of the most overused and misused words in Christian conversation. We talk about “sharing fellowship” to refer to having a cup of tea and chat after the church service. Fellowship should be way more than that. We also talk about friendship and fellowship between Christians from different churches and denominations as well as between churches themselves with some networks using the word in their names (e.g. FIC, EFCC). I think that sometimes we can use the word so casually that it means little more than “friendship.”
So, we need to be clear that fellowship is about much more than friendship. It’s about partnership. I can be friends, indeed should be friends with all kinds of people. I can make friends with the iman from my local mosque or with the nearest active member of Humanists UK. I would happily wave at them or stop for a chat in the street, meet up with them for a coffee, go to watch the football or help them practically if they were in need. I’d also pray for them. However, I would not organise a mission trip or evangelistic outreach with them for obvious reasons. I would not ask them to train up people in our church for ministry and I would not invite them to preach at our church. I would not pool or become dependent on resources from them in a way that enabled them to influence my/our church’s own vision and direction of travel.
That’s the difference between friendship and partnership. The latter is about those things that I would not do with those from other faiths or none. It would show a lack of responsibility towards our own church and to be honest, a lack of love towards them. We should seek to be friendly with as many as possible but we should be careful about who we share fellowship with.