The Power of Fellowship

Combating the epidemic of loneliness

Beth Thomas
The Power of Fellowship
Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

In a May 2023 press release, U.S. surgeon general Vivek Murthy called attention to what he termed the “epidemic of loneliness.” This, he said, “has been an underappreciated public health crisis that has harmed individual and societal health. Our relationships are a source of healing and well-being hiding in plain sight—one that can help us live healthier, more fulfilled, and more productive lives.” 

The release, published on the Department of Health and Human Services website, went on to highlight some statistics. “The physical health consequences of poor or insufficient connection include a 29 percent increased risk of heart disease, a 32 percent increased risk of stroke, and a 50 percent increased risk of developing dementia for older adults. Additionally, lacking social connection increases risk of premature death by more than 60 percent.”1

Despite the explosion of social networks and digital platforms making connection instant, many individuals feel more isolated and disconnected. The rise of remote work and modern conveniences has further aggravated the situation. You don’t even have to leave the house to go shopping or get groceries. A delivery service will drop things off on your doorstep—contactless. 

Against this backdrop, fellowship and community have never been more crucial. The benefits extend far beyond mere companionship. Numerous studies have highlighted the positive impact of social support on mental, emotional, and physical well-being. From reducing stress and anxiety to boosting resilience and self-esteem, the bonds forged through fellowship have the power to heal, inspire, and empower individuals to lead more fulfilling lives.

To a believer, fellowship is not merely a casual gathering but a sacred communion that echoes the divine imperative of unity and mutual support. The Bible emphasizes the significance of fellowship, painting a vivid portrait of its spiritual and mental ramifications. At its core lies the concept of κοινωνία (koinonía), a Greek term meaning “intimate spiritual communion and participative sharing in a common religious commitment and spiritual community.”2


This is perhaps most clearly displayed in the book of Acts and the fledging Christian church. Acts 2:42-47 gives a vivid depiction of koinonía in action, describing how the believers “were together and had everything in common” (verse 44, NIV), sharing meals, possessions, and spiritual experiences as they lived out their faith in community. This spiritual fellowship exceeded mere social interaction once a week. And as a result, “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved” (verse 47, NIV). 

The biblical concept of koinonía involves joint participation in the mission and purpose of Christ’s kingdom, as believers collaborate in advancing the gospel, serving others, and extending God’s love to the world. It fosters authentic community by transparency, vulnerability, and mutual accountability, where believers can experience genuine fellowship and spiritual growth. Believers bear witness to the transformative power of Christ’s love and the Holy Spirit’s work in the life and that draws others to Jesus. 

Koinonía, when actively practiced, also serves as a fertile soil for discipleship, providing a supportive environment in which believers can grow in their faith, knowledge of God’s Word, and obedience to Christ’s commands. 

Why is fellowship and meeting together even more important as we prepare for Christ’s second coming? In a letter written to church leaders in Australia, Ellen White admonished, “There is a great work before us. Those who believe the truth, present truth for this time, are few. Let these be bound together in bonds of closest Christian fellowship, to strengthen one another.”3 Hebrews 3:12-14 details why strengthening each other is necessary. “See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called ‘Today,’ so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original conviction firmly to the very end” (NIV).


How can we, in today’s fast-paced, overstimulated, and highly technical world, embody the same quality of fellowship as the disciples in Acts 2? 

Consistent church attendance. Through Sabbath worship, weekly Bible study and prayer meetings, participating in the Communion service, and uniting together in a dedicated space, believers can deepen their understanding of faith and grow in their relationship with God. This requires consistent engagement with each other, not just nodding briefly as you make your way to a pew. As mutual trust is built, members can offer each other comfort, guidance, and practical assistance, fostering strong friendships based on shared values and beliefs. 

Small groups. Fellowship groups often engage in acts of service and outreach to help those in need within their community. This can include volunteering at shelters, organizing food drives, visiting seniors or those who are sick, or aiding families facing hardship. By working together, believers can make a tangible difference in the lives of others and demonstrate Christ’s love in action. Small groups often provide resources and support for families, helping navigate the challenges of marriage, parenting, and relationships. Through marriage enrichment classes, parenting seminars, and couples’ retreats, believers can strengthen their relationships and build strong, healthy families grounded in faith.

Outreach efforts. Fellowship extends beyond the walls of the church, reaching out to the wider community. By engaging in outreach events, evangelistic campaigns, and mission trips, believers can share the message of Christ’s love and salvation with those who have not yet heard.

The epidemic of loneliness can be effectively addressed only through a concerted effort to prioritize genuine human connection and fellowship. As we heed the exhortation of Hebrews 10:24, 25 to “spur one another on toward love and good deeds” (NIV), let us embrace the imperative of fellowship and community, knowing that together we are stronger, more resilient, and infinitely more capable of overcoming the challenges that lie ahead. 

1 https://www.hhs.gov/about/news/2023/05/03/new-surgeon-general-advisory-raises-alarm-about-devastating-impact-

2 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/koinonia

3 Ellen G. White letter 10, 1897, in Ellen G. White, Letters and Manuscripts, vol. 12, p. 12.

Beth Thomas

Beth Thomas is an assistant editor of the Adventist Review.