The word fellowship is common in Evangelical circles, as it is in academia and other areas. But it is a word that is often subject to some confusion, particularly due to a reductionism. While church suppers and small group gatherings may well be great venues to experience fellowship, they are not in-and-of-themselves the whole experience.
Fellowship (from the Greek koinonia) has a root meaning of ‘common’ or ‘shared’ (as opposed to something that is one’s own). Fellowship is a shared life. And in the church it is a life that is shared with others.
In 1 John the Apostle reminds us that fellowship is much more than we imagine. And as he points out in the prologue to his letter (1 John 1:1-4), the fellowship we have as Christians is shared by more people than we usually consider. According to John, our fellowship is not only with one another, but for those who are Christians, it is also with God. What an awesome thing!
It is important that we do not neglect this spiritual aspect of the fellowship we share. 1 John is a reminder that God is present, and is part of our fellowship together. It is a reaffirmation that there is a spiritual objective to true Christian fellowship, and that the objective of our shared life together is that we continue growing in spiritual maturity. (See Ephesians 4:13)
For those interested in further reading about Fellowship and Community:
Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Summary)
Truly the Community by Marva Dawn
The Crisis of Caring by Jerry Bridges
Bowling Alone by Robert Putnam (Interview on NPR)