Perfect Word conducted a survey asking about Yeshua-believers’ interaction with one another on three levels: congregationally, in small groups, and outside organized meeting environments (simple fellowship). The purpose of the survey was to determine the nature and character of interpersonal relationships within the Body of Messiah. 113 respondents (comprising 42 men and 71 women [almost 50% more]), of whom 27% are Jewish, participated in the survey.
Analysis of Survey Results
Not surprisingly, the highest level of interaction between believers as a whole takes place in the context that facilitates the lowest level of interpersonal relationships: congregational services. About 2/3 (60%) of all respondents reported service attendance at least weekly, which may, in and of itself, indicate only a moderate overall commitment even to such nominal interaction.
Conversely, at exactly the same rate, respondents reported the lowest level of interaction in the context that facilitates the highest level of relationship: simple fellowship. Again, almost 2/3 (60%) of all respondents have no fellowship with believers outside services or other meetings on a weekly basis. This, of course, is in stark contrast to the standard of daily fellowship as exemplified in Acts 2:46, especially considering that only 4% of all respondents claimed to participate in daily fellowship with believers outside their family.
Small group involvement, however, offers a glimmer of hope, and some potentially illuminating insights. While only a little more than 1/3 (38%) of respondents participate in a congregation-affiliated small group (such as a Bible Study or cell group), another 1/3 (32%) are involved in independent small groups, including 12% in independent home fellowships. All told, this accounts for almost 3/4 (70%) of the respondents. Though small-group type is diverse, the fact that more people are involved in small groups than in weekly congregational services could be an indicator that people desire closer, interpersonal interaction, and need only to be encouraged in it.
While interaction at each level (services, small groups, simple fellowship) may have some amount of influence on the others, factors such as marital status, children living at home, etc. also appear to play a part. Involvement in independent groups, as opposed to those congregationally-affiliated, do appear to have lower rates of simple fellowship. This speaks to the need for independents to overcome the negative aspects of their independent-minded tendencies. Clearly, congregational organizations continue to offer a convenient framework in which people can more easily find places in which to comfortably fit. Independents need to not necessarily be more organizationally-minded, but more mindful of the organism that is the Body of Messiah, and eschew any idea that it is beneficial to walk alone.
In conclusion, if the results of this survey even slightly resemble the character of the larger Body of Messiah, there is a significant vacuum of fellowship among us. We are a fragmented, disjointed Body, and if we have any hope of adequately shining the light of Yeshua, we must overcome this glaring shortcoming.
Almost 2/3 (60%) of all respondents attend weekly services or more; almost 3/4 (72%) attend at least monthly.
Women attend weekly services slightly more than men (39% to 31%), however, of respondents who said they attend services twice weekly, men attend more than twice as often as women (36% to 17%). More women than men attend services less than monthly (31% to 24%). Among women, unmarrieds attend congregational services the most (68%), while married women with and without young children attend at about the same rate (50% and 52%, respectively). Among men, marrieds with young children attend congregational services the most (73%), compared to 63% in the other two groups. Married men without young children attend services the least (37%).
Jewish and Gentile believers attend at-least-weekly services at about the same rate (35% and 37%, respectively), though Jewish believers had a slightly higher percentage of more-than-weekly attendance (29% to 22%). Gentile believers, compared to Jewish believers, had a higher rate of occasionally, rarely, or never attending services (7%, 11% and 12% to 6%, 6% and 10%, respectively).
1/3 (32%) of all respondents are involved in some kind of independent fellowship, separate from a congregational organization (20% in independent Bible Studies, 12% in an independent home fellowship).
Almost 3/4 (70%) of all respondents participate in a small group outside of family. Almost 1/2 (47%) are involved in some kind of small group Bible Study, while more than 1/2 (59%) are involved regularly in more than one small group.
Of respondents who attend services at least weekly, almost 2/3 (60%) are involved in a congregation-sponsored small group, while those who attended services less than weekly were more involved in an independent small group (44%). Nearly a quarter of congregational attenders are also involved in independent small groups.
Men are slightly more involved in small groups than women, both in groups connected with congregations (40% to 37%, respectively) and independent small groups (33% to 31%, respectively). Married men with young children are the most involved in congregational small groups (60%), whereas married men without young children and unmarrieds are considerably more involved in independent small groups (42% and 63%, respectively). Married men without young children have the highest rate of non-involvement in small groups (21%). Nominal percentages of married men have fellowship only with their family.
About 1/3 of all women are involved in congregational small groups. A third of married women without young children and a third of unmarried women are involved in independent small groups, compared to less than 1/4 of married women with young children. Married women with young children have family-only small-group-fellowship the most (22%).
Gentile believers are involved in congregational small groups at a slightly higher rate than Jewish believers (39% to 35%), but at more than seven percentage points higher for independent small group involvement (34% to 26%). Jewish believers, however, are significantly more involved in multiple small groups (68% to 56%), while Gentile believers tended toward Bible Studies over other small group types (37% to 29%).
Simple Fellowship Outside Organized Meetings
2/3 (60%) of all respondents have no fellowship with believers outside services or other meetings on a weekly basis; only 1/2 (52%) do so at least monthly, though nearly the same amount (44%) have fellowship even less frequently than that (25% “occasionally”; 14% “rarely”, 5% “never”).
Of respondents who attend services at least weekly, only 41% have fellowship at least weekly with other believers outside services; about 50% of those have fellowship more than twice a week. Only a little more than 1/4 (29%) of those attending services less than weekly have weekly fellowship or more. About the same percentage of respondents in both groups (53% and 51%, respectively) have fellowship outside of services on at least a monthly basis.
Women are considerably more involved in simple fellowship on a weekly basis or more (41% to 29%). Men and women are about even when it comes to nominal or no simple fellowship (40% and 38%, respectively). Unmarried women have simple fellowship the most (45%), while a little more than a third of marrieds do as well (39%). Married women without young children are the least involved in regular, simple fellowship at 42%.
A little more than 1/3 of unmarried men (38%) engage in simple fellowship on a more-than-weekly basis, while only a little more than a 1/4 of married men do so. About half of all men do not fellowship with other believers outside services and meetings.
Almost half of Jewish believers (45%) have more-than-weekly simple fellowship, compared with 1/3 of Gentile believers (33%). Three times as many Jewish believers meet daily with other believers (6% to 2%), while twice as many Gentile believers never have simple fellowship at all (6% to 3%). Overall, Gentile believers are more likely than Jewish believers to have fellowship on a less-than-monthly basis (46% to 39%).
Small Group – Simple Fellowship Connection
Of the 36% of respondents who report they have simple fellowship at least weekly, more than half (54%) are also involved a small group connected to a congregation; only 37% of the same group are involved in independent small groups. Of the 44% who occasionally, rarely or never have fellowship with other believers outside of services, it made little difference that they are involved in a congregational small group (35%), independent small group (25%) or no small group at all (31%).