We dedicate this Special Issue to the efforts of the brethren who participated in the recent Conference on Fellowship that was held in Blackstone, Virginia. A number of ecclesial representatives from around the US and Canada came together on the weekend of June 5-6, 2004 to seek out God's guiding principles on fellowship from His word. These conferences, this being the fourth since they began in 1999, have been a blessing for our community in bringing brethren closer together through communication with one another around the things of the Hope that we all love and share.
This year's conference on fellowship addressed an important issue in these difficult times. The objective was to identify and consider the principles on fellowship that are revealed in the Bible.
Brethren met together in small groups, each group being assigned one of the subjects that are logically generated around those Bible verses that speak about fellowship. These groups sought out other verses that were related to their assigned theme. They discussed and arranged these verses, identifying the principles involved, with a view toward presenting their organized conclusions to the larger group on a flip chart.
The group presentations were then received and discussed by the entire group. This full session allowed opportunity for all of the brethren to help refine the conclusions, adding other verses and scriptural ideas into each principle. The group studies were supplemented by a number of theme talks and other exercises, all mingled with an abundance of fellowship during the meals and free time. Our weekend conference was enhanced through the real fellowship and support of the brothers and sisters from the Berea and Good Hope ecclesias. The Memorial service was conducted on site, with many brethren from the area sharing in fellowship with the conference group, resulting in a fitting conclusion to this time together.
We are thankful for the effort of these brethren. The principles that they have identified and outlined are printed on both sides of the back cover of this issue. . The conference committee took responsibility for summarizing these principles from the valuable work of the brethren at the conference. We are also making these principle cards available from the Advocate bookstore for individuals to keep in their Bibles for future reference. The card format is one that lends itself to both personal and joint ecclesial studies.
The articles that are presented in this issue are developed around the principles of fellowship that were presented at the conference. It is our hope that this work of faith will be useful to all of our brethren as we face the difficulties that are too often mixed with the wonderful blessings of our fellowship in the Lord.
"I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd." (John 10:14-16)
Our cover picture shows a "fold" of sheep grazing together in the sunlight. As servants of God and followers of the good shepherd, this is an appropriate picture of what our fellowship with the father and the Son is intended to be. "For he is our God; and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand." (Psalm 95:7)
"This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin." (1 John 1:5-7)
(This picture was made available for our use by Leep Zelones, Master of Photography.)