214 – Why Writers Need Fellowship

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Why Writers Need Fellowship Write from the Deep Podcast with Karen Ball and Erin Taylor YoungWriting is a solitary occupation, and yet God created human beings with a need for fellowship. This is why it’s crucial for writers to seek—and not neglect—community. Don’t miss being blessed—and blessing others—through this God-designed need for relationships.

But first, thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Welcome to the deep! In some of our episodes this year, we’ve talked about various spiritual disciplines, by which we mean practices that help us develop a deeper, closer relationship with God. Here are links to our episodes about Rest-211, Prayer 208, Silence-205, and Solitude 199.

The Christian writing life is hard. Knowing God and trusting God is crucial on this journey. Today we want to focus on a practice that we don’t always think of as a discipline, and that we sometimes might even take for granted or feel like it sort of just goes without saying. What is this practice? It’s Christian fellowship.

What is fellowship?

Let’s start with what fellowship is. Among Merriam-Webster’s definitions are:

Companionship, company, the state being comradely.

The BibleProject.com defines fellowship as: “shared participation within a community.”

Dalla Willard in his book The Spirit of the Disciplines writes this about fellowship: “In fellowship we engage in common activities of worship, study, prayer, celebration, and service with other disciples.”

Willard categorizes fellowship as a spiritual discipline of engagement. Whereas things like fasting, silence, and solitude are disciplines of abstinence, where we cease doing certain activities for a time, disciplines of engagement, like fellowship, are where we commit to participation, to involvement in activities we are at times likely to neglect. Bible study and prayer are other examples of disciplines of engagement.

So fellowship is something we do, something we participate in, either in a large group of people or just a few.

Why do we need fellowship?

But why is fellowship important? What is the basis of it?

1. We were made for fellowship.

Justin Whitmel Earley, in his book The Common Rule, has this to say:

“One of the defining marks of the Christian faith is that God is three persons in one triune God. Among the thousands of radical implications of the Trinity, my favorite is that God is a fellowship. This means we are made in the image of fellowship.”

So we’re made for fellowship and in the image of fellowship.

The BibleProject article we mentioned earlier says:

“God enjoys perfect fellowship within himself. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are in eternal relationship and always participate in acts of self-giving love toward one another. This fellowship is the essence of heaven.”

Jesus talks about his fellowship with the Father in John 17:5: And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (NIV)

The BibleProject article goes on to say, “[God] created humans in his image so that we could share in his eternal self-giving fellowship and partner with him to share it with all of creation.”

So again, it seems clear that God designed us for fellowship.

Here’s another great quote from the book The Common Rule that talks about the implications of this:

“We came from friendship. Everything in the universe has its roots in friendship. That means the longing to be in right relationship with other people and things is at the heart of every molecule in existence—and most powerfully in our own hearts. We can’t be happy without knowing and being known, because that’s the image of the trinitarian friendship we were made in.”

The bottom line is that fellowship is necessary for human flourishing.

2. We need connections with other believers to help us with our spiritual formation.

The second reason why we need fellowship is that we need connections with other believers to help us with our spiritual formation. We all know how strong the influence of the world around us is. We’re bombarded with messages that undermine the reality and truth God has revealed to us.

Ben Beasley, one of the pastors at my church, was preaching about this a few weeks ago. I loved how he phrased this. He said, “Our spiritual formation must be stronger than our cultural formation.”

We can’t easily achieve that without connection to other believers.

In Dallas Willard’s book, The Spirit of the Disciplines, he talks about how the gifts God gives to the body of Christ are meant to be reciprocal in nature. They’re spread out among the members. Without fellowship, we wouldn’t get the full experience of God’s gifts for his church. We’d only experience a part of what he wants for us.

1 Peter 4:10 (NIV) says, “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.”

Because our gifts are to be used for the common good, our responsibility is to be part of the body so we can both give and receive gifts. This is how we grow and develop in our spiritual formation, and help others do the same.

In fellowship, we also help to sustain each other. Willard says, “The members of the body must be in contact if they are to sustain and be sustained by each other. Christian redemption is not devised to be a solitary thing, though each individual, of course, has a unique and direct relationship with God.”

So in fellowship, we help each other cope, endure, and stand against the world that tries to tear us away from God. We help each other “work out our salvation with fear and trembling” like it says in Philippians 2:12.

3. The amplification of God’s presence and power happens within groups.

The third reason why fellowship is important is that there is an amplification of God’s presence and power found within the body of believers.

Dallas Willard says this in The Spirit of the Disciplines:

“Personalities united can contain more of God and sustain the force of his greater presence much better than scattered individuals. The fire of God kindles higher as the brands are heaped together and each is warmed by the other’s flame.”

Jesus makes a point to say in Matthew 18:19-20 (NIV):

Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.”

Of course this doesn’t mean God only listens to prayers from groups, and it doesn’t mean that prayer asked for with impure motives will be granted. The point here is that Jesus does, throughout the whole surrounding passage, emphasize the power and responsibility of the body of believers.

Why is fellowship specifically important for writers?

We’ve talked a lot about why we as Christians need fellowship, but what about the specific reasons why fellowship is important to writers?

First, as writers, we’re a creative, artistic group, often introverted. Fellowship with other believers who aren’t writers, and who may have a more linear, logical bent helps to round out our perspective on life. The same is true of our relationships with people who are more extroverted. The gifts found in believers who aren’t writers are still necessary and vital to our spiritual and artistic formation.

Second, as writers we also need fellowship with other writers. We share common experiences other “normals” don’t have. We think about ways our characters can kill people, or the designs of storyworlds vastly different from our own. We have coffee with our characters because they’re like real people to us. Amongst other writers, we find support, understanding, acceptance, and encouragement for our unique bent and gifts in God’s overall design.

Practical ways to participate in fellowship

Fellowship is important, even vital. But how do we do it? What are some practical ways? Here are some ideas we’ve come up with, and let me say that while we’ll talk about the benefits for you in all these, please remember that what you bring—your gifts and service and participation—is equally vital to others in the opportunities.

Join a prayer group either in person or online where you not only are praying for each other but you get a chance to get to know others, hear their various perspectives and experiences, encourage and support them.

Attend church services to experience a larger group of believers in fellowship as you worship, take communion, pray, and learn from preaching.

Join a worship group, or a worship band. My husband and I moved to Kansas a few years ago, and eventually he started playing in the worship band at church, which has been a wonderful way for him to begin building relationships with people in the church.

Join a Bible study group, again either in person or online. It’s amazing what other people bring to the table in terms of their perspectives and insights. We can’t help but be enriched. And what we have to add matters, too!

Get involved in parachurch organizations like Fellowship of Christian Athletes, InterVaristy Christian Fellowship or The Navigators. When I was in college, my connection to InterVarsity is what led me to Christ and played a huge role in my spiritual formation as a young believer. It also gave me a place to serve, and to grow through my service.

Go on a mission trip. You can not only enjoy fellowship with others in your group, but you’ll also likely have the opportunity to develop cross-cultural relationships and expand your perspective. You’ll also be helping to meet the needs of others.

Participate in celebrations. These might be potlucks, banquets, parties, or all kinds of other possibilities. In our church, there’s a whole special service where they do baptisms. It’s a big day of testimony, encouragement, commitment, and celebration.

Go on a retreat. This might be a marriage retreat, family retreat, writers’ retreat, or a men’s or women’s retreat.

Join an accountability group of some sort. These might be things like Celebrate Recovery, or it might be just a group formed to hold each other accountable for some common spiritual goal. Maybe help with overcoming some specific sin, or maybe encouragement to engage in other spiritual disciplines.

Join a Christian writers’ group either locally or online. For example, check out WordWeavers or American Christian Fiction Writers. My friendships and connections in my local ACFW group have been an incredible blessing. Our group often got together for lunch before our monthly meetings, which was a great way to foster and nurture relationships.

Go to a Christian writing conference. There are always opportunities for fellowship and for engaging with others to begin developing relationships. Many have worship sessions, prayer teams, or group meals you can participate in.

Join (or start) a mastermind group with other Christians. For me, this is one of my favorite forms of fellowship. I’ve been part of a mastermind for quite a few years now. The women in my group are amazing. They all bring their own gifts, perspectives, specialties, knowledge, experiences. We pray for each other, we encourage each other, we help each other. They’ve been a huge blessing.

Invite others to a meal. Maybe you have one meal a week that’s dedicated to fellowship with others. Maybe it’s as simple as inviting folks over for dinner after church. Or meeting at a restaurant. Or hosting visiting missionaries or international students. Maybe you have a regular brunch group or a group from work that does lunch together.

Nurture friendships. We also don’t want to forget fellowship in the form of friendships with others, either one-on-one or friend groups. As Justin Whitmel Earley wrote in his book The Common Rule, we all desire, deep down, to be known. But we also fear it, so it’s not easy.

In true friendship we learn to be vulnerable. We learn to be people who still love each other when all our human messiness is out on the table. We learn to trust, and to be trustworthy, we learn to protect and to protect others. We hold each other accountable. We learn the value of authenticity and the freedom found in it. We tell truth, and we hear truth from others. This is all a vital part of the human experience and God’s design for us, and we need to dedicate ourselves to pursuing it.

Recently my neighborhood was grieving the loss of a man who committed suicide. Neither his friends nor his family had any idea he was in such a desperate state. That makes it twice the tragedy.

It’s important to be intentional in your friendships. Sure, doing fun activities together is great, but it’s also important for conversation to happen. You’ve probably seen people sitting together at a restaurant and everyone is engaged with their phone. That’s not an experience of knowing others and being known. You might even consider “conversation appointments” where you all know the goal is to talk. Maybe you chat at a park while kids are playing, or you meet for coffee, or whatever. The point is that you’re being intentional about conversation and getting to know each other.

Start now!

Whatever paths you take to engage in fellowship, the most important thing is that you DO it. That you intentionally take steps to make this happen in your life. God designed us for fellowship, for relationship with him and with others because he knows that this is how we work better. This is how we flourish even in the midst of a broken world. Our friends, our fellow believers, are anchors for us in the midst of the trials and storms. Don’t miss this spiritual discipline. It will make your life so much better!

Books mentioned in the podcast

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

The Spirit of the Disciplines by Dallas Willard

The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley

The Common Rule by Justin Whitmel Earley

(Just as a reminder, we use affiliate links for the books we mention. Using one of our links, if you choose to purchase a book, is a wonderful way to help us out, because we’ll get a small commission.)

Writing is a solitary occupation, and yet God created human beings with a need for fellowship. Don’t miss being blessed—and blessing others—through our God-designed need for relationships. #amwriting #christianwriter Share on X

WE WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

What are your favorite ways to engage in fellowship?

THANK YOU!

Thank you to all our patrons on Patreon! You help make this podcast possible!

Special thanks to our May sponsor of the month, Priscilla Sharrow! She’s working on her memoir called Bonked! Life, Love, and Laughter with Traumatic Brain Injury, which will release with Redemption Press. Learn more about Priscilla at her website priscillasharrow.com and follow her blog for the TBI/PTSD community.

Many thanks also to the folks at PodcastPS for their fabulous sound editing!

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One comment

  1. Don Atkinson says:

    Karen and Erin,
    I appreciate your Christian world view. As a Christian author, I sometimes feel somewhat lonely. I don’t have any close friends that are Christian authors. As you suggested above, I attend a men’s Bible study twice a month. But none of the guys are authors. My wife supports my activities, but is not an author. I was wondering is Patreon composed primarily of women authors? Currently, I am writing a Bible study guide entitled Day by Day with Messianic Prophecies. I have found this project more challenging than the first two expository devotionals that I wrote. And when I am struggling with a specific study guide it would be nice to have a Christian author friend to communicate with. Blessings,
    Don
    daybydayintheword.org

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